BY MICHELE VAN HESSEN – Hawai‘i State Representative Cynthia Thielen (R, 50th District: Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) challenged the judgment of the Senate after Senators passed legislation on the implementation of an interisland electric cable transmission system; only Senators Chun Oakland, Ihara, and Slom voted No.
SB2785 SD2 HD2 establishes a regulatory structure for the installation and implementation of a cable system and for the construction of on-island transmission infrastructure. The bill includes language to allow the electric utility company (HECO) to recover the cable’s capital costs through an automatic rate adjustment clause.
“How much can the people bear? According to Hawaii’s elected officials, apparently a lot. By agreeing to the House version of SB2785, the Senate has voted to make the public shoulder the burden of a $1billion cable system. This is on top of the $5 billion (and rising) cost of the Honolulu rail project which taxpayers are already funding. A billion for cable, five billion for rail and soon people sink under this load,” declared Thielen.
“This legislation protects a private company and its shareholders from financial risk by placing the burden of that cost on the ratepayers – the public – even if the cable is not completed,” Thielen reiterated.
Representative Thielen, a long-time proponent of renewable energy technologies and reducing Hawaii’s dependency on fossil fuels, disagrees with the revenue recovery provisions of the bill.
“We do not want to reach our renewable energy goals through a costly and unnecessary scenario such as that laid out in SB2785,” stated Thielen. “Look at the simple fact that we should not be guaranteeing an interisland venture when our islands have the capacity to generate their own energy through sources such as wave and solar.”
According to the United States Department of Energy, Oahu has more than enough available wave energy to meet its electricity needs. The DOE’s 2011 report titled “Mapping and Assessment of the United States Ocean Wave Energy Resource” found that Oahu’s total annual available wave energy is 22 TWh per year (terrawatt-hour per year). Oahu requires on average, according to HECO, about 7.7 TWh per year. Therefore, Oahu’s total annual available wave energy could provide almost three times the energy needed to satisfy Oahu’s energy requirements.
The Marine Corps Base Hawai‘i at Kaneohe Bay (MCBH) understands the power of the ocean. MCBH is in the permitting stage of constructing a Wave Hub. “We should be focusing our renewable energy legislation to support sound development of this industry sector, rather than mandating that the public pay for a costly underseas cable project with questionable power output,” Thielen emphasized.
More information on the DOE’s assessment of marine energy resources can be found athttps://www1.eere.energy.gov/water/pdfs/mappingandassessment.pdf.