Sally Kaye: Gov. Ige Should Veto SB 2510 - It’s An Embarrassment - Honolulu Civil Beat

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Sally Kaye

Sally Kaye is a resident of Lanai, an editor and former prosecutor. Opinions are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Civil Beat.

Opinion article badgeMuch has recently been written about Senate Bill 2510 and who’s behind it – does it benefit a certain biomass project on the Big Island? Are there politicians who stand to gain if it’s signed into law?

What hasn’t gotten as much attention is what it will do to other islands if they are forced to find no less than 33% firm renewable power from sources such as biodiesel, while using no more than 45% of any one renewable source to power their grids.

I decided to track down how the Legislature came up with these numbers, and boy, did I get an earful: the bill is unworkable; it was written by a lobbyist and pushed through by a particular senator — described as a “bully” by more than one — and many hoped the bill would get the feedback, and veto, it deserved.

Of course, none of the lawmakers who offered these comments would talk on the record, and frankly I don’t really care whether they have the courage to own them.

Maui County locator mapBut one has to ponder, if the bill was so unworkable, why were legislators willing to punt during session when it could have been fixed, only to now kick the proverbial can back up the food chain to the governor? Since when do our elected officials allow lobbyists to write our laws? If a lawmaker is such a bully that no one will stand up to them, maybe they all should find new day jobs.

Once Again Oahu Legislators Are  Telling Us What To Do

When Friends of Lanai formed to oppose Big Wind back around 2008, our mantra was that each island should be energy independent with sustainable electrical grids. We didn’t think putting a massive undersea cable through the whale sanctuary to take our energy (and Molokai’s) to feed power-hungry Oahu made any sense.

And yet here we are: largely Oahu-based lawmakers are once again telling us they know best when it comes to our energy needs and how we should use the resources we have — and don’t have — on our islands.

House members take their oath of office on opening day of teh 2021 legislature.
House members take their oath of office on opening day of the 2021 Legislature. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Let’s unpack this dog of a bill, shall we?

First it requires the Office of Planning and Sustainable Development to update the state energy plan. Fair enough, it’s been a while.

Then it says OPSD can do this by establishing a state energy policy requiring each island to get the aforementioned 33% of renewable energy from firm renewables, and limiting any one type of renewable energy source to 45% of all generation, geothermal excepted.

But wait. It says the 33% and 45% could be updated by the Legislature through a concurrent resolution based on data from the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. Really? Did someone misplace the Public Utilities Commission?

It goes on to prohibit fossil fuel generation after 2045 … well, not really, because the Leg can extend this deadline (again by concurrent resolution) through three consecutive three-year extensions. Which, by the way, would take us to 2054, well past the deadline already enshrined in statute.

I checked with several of my energy buddies, and got a pretty uniform response: This bill not only won’t work, it will hurt us.

Isaac Moriwake, managing attorney for Earthjustice, told me he thought “a bunch of the islands might be in violation of this statute right off the bat.” Life of the Land’s Henry Curtis, who has weighed in ad nauseum on who benefits from bills like SB 2510, agreed that “Lanai couldn’t add the proposed solar plus storage that equates to 93% of the generated electricity, and Maui Island, which has no firm renewable energy, wouldn’t be able to add any new solar or wind, even with storage” until it finds some firm stuff.

Sen. Gil Riviere, one of only five senators who voted against SB 2510 at the end of session, said he was “concerned provisions in the bill might restrict flexibility in future decision making, potentially excluding viable alternatives that should be considered,” and he questioned the “appropriateness” of changing a statute by concurrent resolution.

Sen. Mike Gabbard, another no vote, said he hoped “the public’s concerns would be worked out,” but when he saw some of the problematic provisions of SB 2510 had found their way back in, “it made sense for me as a former Energy and Environment Committee Chair and supporter of distributed energy to vote no.”

I think this should give you enough reason to tank this disaster of a bill, Gov. Ige. Maybe tell the Leg to find some backbone and do a better job next year?

Former state representative and PUC Chair Mina Morita thinks it’s always a bad idea to be prescriptive when it comes to evolving technology and “there appears to be lots of misunderstanding (over) what is a mandate and controlling” as opposed to mere guidance.

Of course, none of this would be good for Lanai, since Hawaiian Electric just inked an agreement with Onyx Development Group for a project (Mikiola Solar) that could provide way more than 45% of our island’s energy needs. And, as Pulama Lanai’s chief operating officer, Kurt Matsumoto pointed out, “We have no forest to burn or water to grow crops to turn into bio fuel.”

So let’s recap: No one really knows whether SB 2510 is merely suggesting the state update its energy plan, or is mandating how every island has to supply their grids; no one really understands what the future impacts would be if every island is forced to produce 33% from firm renewables (when some don’t have any) while capping the use of any one renewable resource at 45% (when they may already be past that) — and all of it could evaporate via a concurrent resolution?

I think this should give you enough reason to tank this disaster of a bill, Gov. Ige. Maybe tell the Leg to find some backbone and do a better job next year?

We on Lanai and on other islands with limited resources — who couldn’t possibly comply with SB 2510 — will support you.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation and the Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation.

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About the Author

Sally Kaye

Sally Kaye is a resident of Lanai, an editor and former prosecutor. Opinions are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Civil Beat.

Latest Comments (0)

Setting hard line specific numbers only exacerbates the failure to achieve them in the future. Take rail's original numbers and completion date as example. Think the stadium redevelopment project will be on budget and on time? This bill and specific hard line goals will also surely fall short and leave everyone saying; "I told you so."

wailani1961 · 1 year ago

We need innovation in our energy approach. This bill does nothing to address the permitting gaps from the PUC and other agencies that slows down the project approval process. Everything goes through HECO as the electricity monopoly which inherently limits innovation. We must build the runway before we start the countdown.

People_First · 1 year ago

Its funny. The enviros promote austerity for us all. But is that what we ALL want? I surely don't want higher prices either. I for one like that I can flip the switch at 0400 and the light comes on. Every time. I like that when I cross the street, the traffic signals are working. I like that when I get hungry for popcorn, I can use my microwave...again, every time.I experienced rolling blackouts and brownouts while working in foreign countries. Not because they had switched to green. But because they were 3rd world or emerging. A very inefficient way to get things done. Usually it was in the middle of the day, right around lunchtime and pau hana. Coincidence? Maybe.I would always sacrifice short term efficiency for long term effectiveness.Oil, coal and gas have been very very effective for a long time. Emerging and 3rd world countries are aching for coal. But the left wants to give them green. The left is so confusing.

Ranger_MC · 1 year ago

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