Catharine Lo

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Nov 05

News round-up:

PBN: Hawaiian Electric seeks OK for 6 more renewable energy projects

Star-Advertiser op-ed by Alex Tiller of Sunetric: Solar gardens aim to offer PV for all

Star-Advertiser Letter to the Editor from Sen. Mike Gabbard: Bill would help cut electric costs


Integrated Resource Planning - Docket 2012-0036

Nov. 4: Zilkha Biomass submits comments stating that "Zilkha can provide a less expensive fuel than the options discussed in the IRP at a lower overall capital cost."

Oct 04

Blue Planet is proud to announce the upcoming launch of WEfficiency, a crowdfunding platform that enables supporters to fund energy efficiency purchases for their favorite nonprofits. Here's the beautiful twist: Funders will get their money back once the energy savings have paid off the cost of the purchase. Thanks to the "power of efficiency," every donation can be recycled into another! What better way to support Hawaii's nonprofits? If you know of a nonprofit that might be interested, encourage them to sign up today.

  The Concept: WEfficiency helps Hawai‘i nonprofits unlock the benefits of energy efficiency.

Through WEfficiency’s online crowd-funding platform, nonprofits will be able to secure pledges from a “crowd” of supporters to pay for energy efficiency upgrades—for example, solar water heaters, ENERGY STAR appliances, high-efficiency lighting—that will yield immediate monthly cost savings. When the crowd raises enough to fund a proposed efficiency upgrade, WEfficiency gathers the pledged support to make the purchase. The nonprofit uses a portion of its energy cost savings each month to quickly repay the crowd. Funders can choose to make a loan (the supporter gets his $$ back after the purchase is repaid) or double-down their donation (the funder recycles his $$ as a standard monetary donation). After the purchase is paid off, the nonprofit can devote its energy cost savings to furthering their good mission.

The Benefits. Participating nonprofits will see multiple benefits: 

1.     Save money. Monthly energy savings allows nonprofits to do more of the great work they do for our communities.

2.     Expand donor base. Efficiency uses innovative crowd-funding to engage a new type of donor – savvy individuals looking for a fresh way to be philanthropic.

3.     Earned media. WEfficiency has already enjoyed national recognition via the Clinton Global Initiative. The upcoming launch will combine the reach of traditional media with the engagement power of social media.

The Concept: WEfficiency helps Hawai‘i nonprofits unlock the benefits of energy efficiency.

For more information or to sign up, please contact David Aquino at or call 808-954-6146.

Oct 03


PUC filing: Blue Planet Foundation’s Reply Statement of Position on Integrated Resource Planning Matters


The purpose of this informational briefing is to receive an update from the Hawaiian Electric Company on recent changes to its solar photovoltaic grid interconnection policies, the justification for the change, and how solar installers and consumers will be affected.


Monday, October 14, 2013


1:00 p.m.


Conference Room 325

State Capitol

415 South Beretania Street

The following organizations will give presentations:

·         Hawaiian Electric Company

·         Hawai‘i Solar Energy Association

·         Hawai‘i PV Coalition

·         Interstate Renewable Energy Council


Related news:


California's AB 327 Officially Signed into Law


Community Solar to Double Minnesota Solar Output

Sep 13

Jeff's blog on Huffington Post:

"If the development of our indigenous energy resources proceeds expeditiously, the potential exists for Hawai'i to become self-sufficient in terms of our electrical energy and highway transportation fuel needs in the next 20 to 30 years..."

These words accompanied a 1977 plan for Hawai'i's energy independence by the year 2010. The plan--developed for the state senate by more than 100 Hawai'i experts--reminds us how elusive the goal of weaning Hawai'i from imported oil has been.

Not anymore. With a combination of smart policy, committed residents, and breakthrough technologies, Hawai'i is beginning to realize its potential for energy independence. The Hawaiian Electric Companies recently announced that they achieved almost 18% renewable energy for O'ahu, Maui, and Hawai'i Island in the first half of 2013--exceeding the 2015 requirement two years ahead of schedule. That's exciting progress.

Here are four current bright spots helping to drive Hawai'i's clean energy transformation:

You've seen the ads (BJ Penn?), you've heard from the neighbors, or maybe you've already bought--solar is everywhere. Tens of thousands of Hawai'i households have taken control of their energy costs by putting a personal power plant on their roof. The growth is staggering, with as much solar photovoltaic installed in 2012 as nearly all of the previous years combined. Growth has leveled somewhat due to unfortunate changes in how the state tax credit is administered, but competition, decreases in equipment costs, and new financing tools make solar more affordable than ever. Hawai'i also continues to lead the nation in solar water heaters per capita. What's more, thousands of residents work in the solar industry. Putting the sun to work means we exchange purchases of imported fossil fuel for local paychecks.

What's next? Community-based renewable energy, such as shared "solar gardens," to allow more residents (especially renters and apartment dwellers) to pa

rticipate in the benefits of solar.


Energy efficiency--the yin to solar's yang--is the cleanest, cheapest, largest, and fastest new energy source in Hawai'i. New energy source? Yes, energy savings from efficiency improvements (think LED bulbs, ENERGY STAR appliances, behavior changes) actually eclipsed the amount of new renewable energy installed in Hawai'i last year. Hawaii Energy--the efficiency "utility" for the Hawaiian Electric territory--offers sizable rebates for solar water, lighting, and high efficiency appliances. They also have aggressive programs to help commercial ratepayers cut their energy bills.

What's next? Demand response, or the ability to use communication technology to better manage power demand, can decrease energy use while enabling more clean energy. Non-essential uses of electricity can be momentarily dialed back by the utility, helping to match renewable energy supply with demand.

On-Bill Financing
Solar and efficiency are great, but both usually require upfront investment before the savings pile up. On-bill financing changes that. This new program will allow residences and businesses--including renters--to install energy efficiency improvements such as solar water heaters and pay for them using their energy bill savings. What's more, the governor enacted an innovative policy this year to secure low-cost capital from the private sector to help kick-start on-bill financing. Called "green energy market securitization (GEMS)," the program can provide attractive financing options to renters and low-income households that otherwise can't afford energy improvements.

What's next? Implementation of on-bill financing. The Public Utilities Commission established a working group that is currently hashing out program details for a scheduled start date in 2014. We need to make sure that the program lives up to its big potential, and is not whittled down to a "pilot."

Electric Vehicles
More than one-third of the oil we use in Hawai'i powers our cars and trucks--nearly half a billion gallons of gasoline and diesel annually. Fortunately, the rapid adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) promises to reduce this amount. Like solar, we are seeing a near doubling of the purchase of EVs annually. While we're not leading the globe in EV uptake (that badge likely goes to Norway, where over 3% of vehicles sold this year are electric), Hawai'i will have more than 2,000 registered EVs by the end of September. This number will continue to increase with a dozen new models hitting the market over the next year, expanding the range of options in price, size, and style. And that dreaded "range anxiety?" It's disappearing as battery capacity and performance rapidly improves, and Hawai'i leads the nation in the number of available charge spots per person. While most of the grid energy currently charging Hawai'i's EVs is fossil-based, EVs go further on a gallon of oil than the typical gasoline car. That's because they are more efficient, they capture the braking energy, and they don't waste gas idling. Plus, they become increasingly clean as more renewable energy is added to the grid.

What's next? Putting EVs to work as part of the larger clean energy ecosystem, storing energy and regulating fluctuations in variable renewable energy resources. This requires a smart grid, two-way inverters in the vehicles (to both charge and discharge batteries), and an intelligent networked system that seamlessly interacts with thousands of vehicles plugged into the grid.

These bright spots--the growth in solar, efficiency, and EVs, and the availability of new financing programs--are clearing our path to energy independence, and are drawing attention from communities elsewhere that are also transitioning to clean energy. As long as we don't fall into the same trap that slowed us down in 1977, we will continue to get closer to the day we no longer refer to it as alternative energy, and just call it energy.

Sep 09

Blue Planet is pleased to announce the first annual Energy Report Card for Hawai‘i. This morning, Blue Planet founder Henk Rogers introduced the report card during his keynote address at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit. The data-rich, 42-page progress report provides a wide-angle perspective on Hawai‘i’s energy transformation, taking a look at five key metrics including Transportation, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, and Economics. Supporting drivers are also analyzed to identify gaps in current industry efforts, areas of success, and opportunities for improvement. In the 2013 report card, Hawai‘i receives an overall grade of C–.

Blue Planet developed the report card in response to the need for an objective examination of Hawai‘i’s progress to a clean energy future. The grades were determined as a reflection of the state’s progress toward the benchmark of energy independence by 2030.
Some highlights:

Positive performance in energy efficiency stands out as a bright spot, with per capita electricity generation dropping steadily below the target trend since 2008.

The report card also shows that transportation, which accounts for two-thirds of Hawai‘i’s fossil fuel consumption, remains an area that demands improvement. Land transportation offers the most immediate opportunities for reducing fuel consumption. Greater fuel efficiency, alternative fuels, lowering mileage, and electric vehicles all have roles to play. The key challenge is identifying substitutes for aviation fuels, highlighting the need to focus on local biofuels for transportation rather than electricity generation.

Blue Planet plans to update the Energy Report Card annually to keep progress toward energy independence on track and focus solutions in areas that need it most. We welcome your input to help make next year's report card even better. Questions and comments can be addressed to

Sep 06

News from our friends at The Energy Excelerator... who recently received $30 million from the US Navy to help fund clean tech start-ups!

The Energy Excelerator is a startup program dedicated to helping solve the world’s energy problems, starting in Hawaii. Hawaii has the best economic conditions for launching a clean energy company on the planet. We would like to invite to you apply for up to $1M of non-dilutive funding to bring your energy solution to Hawaii and the Asia Pacific.

Here’s how it works:
1.       Apply today until September 27 at
2.       Begin with a full-immersion week in Hawaii to kick off a 6-month program for seed-stage startups and a 12-month program for growth-stage startups. You do not have to relocate to Honolulu, but you will spend 2 to 6 weeks in Hawaii over the course of the program.
3.       Non-dilutive funding up to $1M cost-reimbursable grants to growth-stage companies for projects in Hawaii or the Asia Pacific and $30K to $100K in fixed-price grants to seed-stage startups to develop and execute their go-to-market strategies.   
4.       Work with a core group of experienced mentors to refine and execute your go-to-market strategy.


To find out more check out the applicant package and visit our website, Please get in touch with us if you have any questions: or on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
We know energy innovation requires an entire community and we would love for you to be a part of ours.
The Energy Excelerator team

The Energy Excelerator is a startup program dedicated to solving the world's energy problems starting in Hawaii. We help innovative companies succeed in Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region with non-dilutive funding, strategic relationships, and a vibrant ecosystem. The Energy Excelerator is a program of the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR).

Jun 27

Governor Abercrombie has signed Senate Bill 1087 into law. The landmark legislation creates a mechanism to secure low-cost capital for clean energy projects. This financing can be used as an anchor source of funding that will help maximize participation in Hawaii's on-bill financing program, providing alternatives for renters and low-income residents who may not have access to traditional sources of private capital to pay for energy improvements. Learn more about GEMS here.

Jun 04

Posted on in Energy Policy

Friday’s MECO rate case decision included an unprecedented reproach by the PUC in the form of a six-page addendum attached to the order. We include the clearly articulated reasoning of the “Commission’s Observations and Perspectives” here and commend the PUC for ensuring that the public utilities serve the public interest, and when they do not, holding them accountable.

Commission's Observations and Perspectives

The commission believes it is timely, necessary and essential to outline fundamental, emerging issues pertaining to the operation and regulation of investor-owned electric utilities in Hawaii to set a course that is mutually beneficial to utility shareholders and utility ratepayers.

The commission has observed that electric customers are increasingly frustrated because of high electric rates. These concerns were also expressed by the 2013 Hawaii State Legislature in connection with Senate Bill 120, Session Laws of Hawaii 2013, which authorizes the commission "to establish a policy to implement economic incentives and cost recovery regulatory mechanisms, as necessary and appropriate, to induce and accelerate electric utilities' cost reduction efforts, encourage greater utilization of renewable energy, accelerate the retirement of utility fossil generation, and increase investments to modernize the State's electrical grids." Therefore, the commission's Decision and Order in the instant docket and the simultaneous filing of the decoupling mechanism  investigation is intended to serve notice to Maui Electric Company, Limited ("MECO"), as well as the other HECO Companies.

The commission understands the importance of and supports the concept of delinking electricity sales from revenue. However, existing automatic adjustment mechanisms appear to unduly insulate the HECO Companies from the need or urgency to make major adjustments to current utility management and operational practices, thus offering no motivation to implement strategies and action plans that may be more conducive to serving the public interest.

The commission is concerned that the 2008 "Energy Agreement" may be the principal foundation for HECO Companies' overall business strategy. The HECO Companies' over-reliance upon a link between the Agreement and utility financial health obfuscates utility performance and ultimately customer service and satisfaction. The commission affirms its commitment and support of Hawaii's clean energy transformation. However, clean energy in and of itself is not the singular goal but rather should be viewed as one strategy to serve the public interest along with sound business practices centered on customer value.

From the commission's perspective, the HECO Companies appear to lack movement to a sustainable business model to address technological advancements and increasing customer expectations. The commission observes that some mainland electric utilities have begun to define, articulate and implement the vision for the "electric utility of the future." Without such a long-term, customer focused business strategy, it is difficult to ascertain whether HECO Companies' increasing capital investments are strategic investments or simply a series of unrelated capital projects that effectively expand utility rate base and increase profits but appearing to provide little or limited long-term customer value. While a public utility is required to have a reasonable opportunity to earn a fair financial return, attractive financial returns are not an entitlement by virtue of being a regulated utility.

The HECO Companies have characterized various automatic adjustment mechanisms that are used as regulatory cost recovery as an "Improved Regulatory Model" for security analysts in lieu of traditional general rate cases. Unfortunately, these automatic adjustment clauses are not linked to key performance measures such as rate affordability and customer satisfaction.

The commission believes that a well-managed, customer focused electric utility is one that is driven by a management philosophy and corporate culture to provide superior customer value through affordable electric rates and outstanding customer service, as defined by its customers. Top performing utilities embrace a well-researched phenomenon known as the virtuous cycle or virtuous circle where positive performance drives positive regulatory outcomes, which drive positive financials, which can then be reinvested in the utility to keep that cycle going.

Conversely, the opposite phenomenon, a "vicious cycle" also can happen. Poor performance drives poor regulatory outcomes and financial penalties starting a downward cycle in the opposite direction.

The virtuous cycle is readily apparent to those who follow and critically analyze electric utility financial performance. As a result, it is common knowledge among these professionals which utilities are top industry performers and whether the HECO Companies are recognized among the industry's elite performers in this regard.

The extent of the HECO Companies' own volition to achieve high performance, provide excellent customer service and affordable rates will determine the appropriate amount of regulatory oversight required. Otherwise, the commission would be forced to employ arduous regulatory scrutiny and oversight of utility expenditures, operations and investments to attempt to achieve the desired performance levels and customer satisfaction. The commission prefers the former but unfortunately, at the present time, believes the lack of a strategic and sustainable business model would require more of the latter until there is evidence of an acceptable course correction.

To this effort, the commission is committed to work collaboratively with the HECO Companies, Consumer Advocate, and other stakeholders for timely regulatory responses and action. The commission remains committed to alternative regulatory mechanisms to minimize regulatory lag and uncertainty and is open to innovation to streamline the ratemaking process to the extent they would be in the public interest. However, the achievement of a high performing, customer focused and financially viable electric utility with affordable rates is the responsibility of the electric utility management, not the commission, to deliver on its responsibilities and obligations to uphold the regulatory compact. The public interest demands no less.

# # #


May 29

Hawaiian Electric presented its draft action plans to the Integrated Resource Planning working group (of which Blue Planet is a member) today. You can download the presentation slides here. They will be presenting to the public and accepting comments on the following dates:

Hawaii Island

Tuesday, June 4: 6-8 p.m. Aupuni Center Conference Room, 101 Pauahi St., Hilo

Wednesday June 5: 6-8 p.m. 96-1149 Kamani St., Pahala

Thursday, June 6: 6-8 p.m. King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, 75-5660 Palani Rd., Kailua-Kona


Wednesday, June 12: 6-8 p.m. Farrington High School cafeteria, 1564 N. King St.

Maui County

Thursday, June 13: 6-8 p.m. Pomaikai Elementary School, 4650 S. Kamehameha Ave., Kahului

Wednesday, June 19: 6-8 p.m. Mitchell Pauole Center, 90 Ainoa St., Kaunakakai

Thursday, June 20: 5-7 p.m. Hale Kupuna, 1144 Ilima Ave., Lanai City

Information about IRP, including the four energy scenarios that guided the planning analysis, is available at, the website of the PUC’s independent representative facilitating and monitoring the process.

Ongoing technical analysis of the scenarios is available on the site. The completed analysis and Draft Action Plans will be available for public review on the site after presentation to the citizens’ Advisory Group on Thursday, May 30, 2013.


May 29

Another great offering from our friends at Hawaii Energy:

Efficiency Sales Professional Certification Program – an intense, 6-day training led by Mark Jewell that combines instruction on professional selling, financial analysis, and segment-specific business acumen – all tailored to the energy efficiency industry. This special boot camp format is brought to you by Hawaii Energy. Reservations are first come, first served and limited to 10 individuals per company. GBCI (LEED) and AIA continuing education credits available.

The Program will equip you with the resources, insights, focus, and skills needed to:

·         Identify and capture the attention of the highest-quality prospects
·         Quantify and monetize all of the benefits of enhanced efficiency
·         Understand how people in different segments and decision-making roles view and value efficiency
·         Generate proposals and supporting financials that are concise and compelling
·         Understand the differences between how owner-occupants, landlords, and tenants view and value efficiency
·         Generate compelling value propositions
·         Expand your service offerings to be more comprehensive
·         And much, much more!
Program Details
June 10-15, 2013  If you cannot attend the entire week, you can make up the sessions at a future boot camp.
DoubleTree by Hilton Alana Waikiki Hotel
Honolulu, HI

Who should attend? Efficiency products dealers and distributors, mechanical and electrical contractors, energy-efficiency specialists, architects, engineers, HVAC and lighting designers, building owners and managers, utility representatives, commissioning authorities, and anyone else whose success depends on the successful advocacy of efficiency projects.

Fee: $350 for 50 qualified* attendees (90% off the normal price of $3,500—subsidized by Hawaii Energy).  The program fee includes breakfast, lunch and afternoon refreshments each day, a professional headshot, and a year of on-going support through the Ninja Network.

*In order to receive the Hawaii Energy sponsored seat, registrants must submit a resume or brief bio showing demonstrating more than one year's experience in any of the following areas:

·         design, sales, maintenance or monitoring of significant-scale electricity-consuming equipment or systems
·         direct involvement in the design and/or implementation of energy-related programs
·         sales or marketing-related endeavors with an intention to begin or continue working in the energy efficiency/conservation arena in Hawaii.

OR, write a compelling essay explaining how this training will help you help the ratepayers of Hawaii directly achieve Hawaii Energy's mission (see website).

Note: Hawaii Energy is subsidizing the cost of this program for Hawaii, Honolulu and Maui county residents.  Residents of other counties must pay the unsubsidized program fee of $3,500. Please call (808) 333-7225 to process your registration.

To learn more about the program and to register visit: