HONOLULU — A state agency has filed a response criticizing an energy transition plan by Hawaiian Electric Industries, the parent company of Hawaii Electric Co.
"Hawaii cannot be a trailblazer in energy innovation by solving tomorrow's problems with yesterday's solutions," the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism said in a filing Thursday with the state Public Utilities Commission.
The state was responding to an August plan from the company, which detailed a plan to have 65 percent of its power come from renewable energy by 2030. It also wants to triple the amount of solar power and cut the average customer bill by 20 percent.
The state supports those targets, but added it "is not entirely convinced that these goals go far enough," the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/1oY6N7J).
The utility, the state said, is stuck in the past and planning benefits for itself rather than the public.
The agency criticized the company's subsidiaries — Hawaiian Electric on Oahu, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light on the Big Island — for "maintaining the traditional vertically integrated model while not making significant progress on renewable penetration in the near term."
The state suggested the company move to a model where it profits from transmitting and distributing power instead of generating it. That would also allow rooftop solar, wind farms and other small players to connect to the power grid.
Proposals for rooftop solar focus more on how much the utility will make and not enough on the benefits for the public, the report said.
Besides a one-time connection fee, the company has proposed increasing a fixed monthly charge from as low as $17 to $71 for solar customers on Oahu, and decreasing the amount the company pays residents for sending power to the grid. Residents are currently paid more than 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, but the new plans calls for that to be decreased to 17 cents per kilowatt-hour.
"These revisions are asymmetrical in that they appear focused on benefiting the HEI companies without any commensurate benefit to the public," the report said.
The company has said it needs to slow the addition of rooftop solar systems because they might cause instability in the grid.
The state also criticized the company's plan to covert oil-burning power-generation plants to liquefied natural gas. The cost is estimated to be about $200 million
"Rather than using LNG as a bridge to a cleaner future, the HEI companies seem intent on using LNG as a bridge to more LNG," the state said.
Besides the state's filing, the utilities commission has received hundreds of other written comments that will be considered as it moves to approve or reject all or part of the plan. No timeline has been established.
The company is not commenting on the state's filing or any other written comments now.
"We welcome all kinds of comments and look forward to the discussion process that will follow," said company spokesman Peter Rosegg.
Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com
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