Recent blog posts
Jun 08
2012

Posted on in Energy News
It's Aloha Friday and World Ocean Day today! Let's celebrate with lots of aloha for the ocean. The ocean provides us so much: food, medicine, therapy, recreation, scenery. Seawater also serves as a natural, abundant source of power, in the form of endless waves and changing tides, and also by way of the coldness of its deep water. Here's an editorial that appeared in yesterday's Star-Advertiser that talks about why sea water air conditioning is an ideal energy solution for Honolulu:

As we consider strategies for kicking Hawaii’s 5-million-gallon-per-day oil habit, our tendency is to focus on alternative sources of fuel and electricity. We look to clean, renewable energy sources to replace dirty fossil-fuel power. We also look for ways to reduce the amount we use — and waste — through efficiency and conservation.

What we often overlook is that fuel and electricity are means to an end. Electricity is not what we really want. What we really want is light when it’s dark, hot water for a shower and a comfortable temperature indoors.

What if we could cut out the middle man and put an abundant natural resource to work in place of electricity?

Seawater air conditioning is an energy solution that does just that.

Air conditioning is a voracious consumer of electricity. On Oahu, more than 20 percent of the electricity sold is used just to cool buildings. Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning (HSWAC) has proposed a solution for downtown that precludes the need to cool water with electricity, one that could save more than 70 million kilowatt hours of power annually.

Applying the same technology that has been cooling buildings in Toronto, Stockholm and Amsterdam, the Honolulu SWAC team has proposed a district cooling system that will serve the downtown vicinity by 2014.

This fall, it will begin installing a pipeline four miles offshore Kakaako that will pump seawater from a depth of 1,700 feet to an onshore cooling station. There, the 44-degree water will pass through a heat exchanger that transfers the seawater’s coldness to a pipeline of freshwater that circulates in a closed loop. The chilled freshwater connects to downtown buildings’ existing air conditioning infrastructure, providing natural AC that doesn’t require large, electricity-hungry chillers in each building.

The seawater, slightly warmer than when it left the ocean, returns home through a diffuser at 330 to 425 feet — deep enough that no coral ecosystems are affected. The underwater pipe actually becomes an artificial reef, providing substrate to new coral and shelter to fish.

The Honolulu district cooling system has a capacity equivalent to 25,000 tons of ice, enough to cool some 40 buildings. Currently, more than 18,000 tons have been reserved for customers, including the First Hawaiian Center, Hawaiian Electric Co., One Waterfront Towers and the Finance Factors buildings. Those who have signed on recognize the savings they’ll reap thanks to the stabilization of long-term energy costs.

Electricity is versatile, but it is difficult and costly to make and store. The genius behind SWAC technology is that the cold seawater can chill buildings 24/7, much like solar water heaters provide hot showers even after the sun has set. The project’s seawater system design engineer, Makai Ocean Engineering, also designed the deep water pipes off Keahole Point that have successfully provided cooling for the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kona.

The district cooling system will generate an estimated $200 million in construction spending, creating more than 900 new construction jobs. Besides lowering greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 75,000 tons per year, it also will save 260 million gallons of potable water and reduce wastewater discharge by 84 million gallons a year.

On World Ocean Day, observed Friday, we appreciate how much the ocean directly improves our lives in so many ways: food, medication, therapy, recreation, scenery. Let’s also recognize its enormous potential in helping to meet our energy needs.

While researchers continue to work on ways to harness wave power and ocean thermal power, buildings in downtown Honolulu should readily convert to seawater air conditioning, a renewable energy solution that is practical and proven.

 

May 25
2012

Posted on in Transportation
That's how much Lanai residents are paying to fuel their vehicles. The $5.92 for a gallon of regular unleaded even beats the $5.49 for a gallon of diesel. 
May 17
2012

Posted on in Energy Policy
hawaiicapitol.jpgThe 2012 legislative session ended May 3, with mixed results for clean energy. The main three key actions taken by the legislature with Blue Planet’s support were passage of the Hawaii Electricity Reliability Administrator and the interisland cable regulatory bill, and confirmation of Mike Champley and Lorraine Akiba to the Public Utilities Commission.

Hawaii Electricity Reliability Administrator (HERA)
The priority clean energy policy this session was SB 2787, which establishes the Hawai‘i Electricity Reliability Administrator, or HERA. As more independent power producers and distributed energy systems plug into the grid, they face numerous technical, operational, and regulatory issues presented by Hawai‘i's century-old electrical system. These obstacles hinder interconnection and compromise reliability, stifling the potential of renewable energy production. The HERA policy establishes formal, objective, and verifiable reliability and interconnection standards for Hawai‘i’s electricity grids. Having an independent entity—not the electric utility—
set the “rules of the road” for reliability and interconnection would enable increased integration
of renewables and greater system predictability and resiliency. Senate Bill 2787 passed 74-1-1.

Interisland Cable Regulatory Structure
Senate Bill 2785 establishes a regulatory structure for the installation and implementation of an interisland high-voltage electric transmission cable system, bringing it under the governance of the PUC. Having a regulatory framework for the implementation of an interisland cable system will ensure more certainty and oversight in the development process. Hawaii’s islands have varying amounts of technologically acquirable renewable energy resources and an uneven distribution of electricity demand based on population and economic activity. Maui, for example, has surplus wind energy at night, while Oahu has an expanding fleet of electric vehicles that could put that energy to work. Legislation to establish a regulatory framework for the implementation of an interisland cable system can provide more certainty, stability, and oversight in the development process. By providing structure for a statewide electrical grid we can get the most out of our state's abundant solar, wind, and geothermal energy resources. Senate Bill 2785 passed 67-9 (although 15 “with reservations”).  
 
Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Appointments
The Senate confirmed the nominations of both Michael Champley and Lorraine Akiba to the PUC. We believe both will be strong advocates for aggressive clean energy regulatory policy. Mike Champley served as Blue Planet’s expert consultant for two years. During his work with Blue Planet, Champley was instrumental in identifying and suggesting modifications to practices that impede the integration of renewable energy. Champley understands the complex economic, institutional, and operational changes that must happen to enable Hawai‘i’s clean energy transition. Lorraine Akiba will bring broad experience (in public and private law sectors) and energy to the PUC while balancing the skills and expertise of the existing commissioners.  
 
Other Legislative Issues
Unfortunately, we were unable to advance some other key issues this session. Policies that fell by the wayside included reallocation of the barrel tax (and expansion to include coal), renewable energy tax credit reform, and additional PUC policy guidance (related to curtailment provisions and variable rate of return for renewable integration).  

In particular, Blue Planet spent a good deal of effort in a measure to reform the renewable tax credit, largely in response to proposed bills that would have severely reduced the credit. The challenge has been the “success” of the existing 35% credit and the explosive growth of residential and commercial PV (as well as the utility-scale
wind). It’s estimated that the credit could cost the state budget upwards of $60 million this year and
much more in 2013.

Blue Planet took a couple of approaches to this threat. First, we asked former UH economist Thomas Loudat to analyze what the credit yields to the state in terms of job creation, income tax, GET, oil savings, and other ancillary benefits. An op-ed, co-authored by Jeff Mikulina and Thomas Loudat, was published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. We then worked on formulating a new incentive structure for the tax credit—one that converts most of the more substantial incentives from investment credits to production credits (rewarding the actual renewable kWh instead of the equipment cost). This also had the effect of spreading the credit over 10 years, reducing the one-year budget hit. We made some other changes as well, ratcheting back the residential and commercial PV from 35% to 20% over 3 years, eliminating the confusing “system” caps, and sunsetting the credit in 2018 (providing a predictable glide path for the industry). Although the tax credit reforms didn’t pass this session, we had good agreement among legislative leadership and most of the key players in the renewable energy industry, setting us up for next session.
May 11
2012
Blue Planet is extremely active at the PUC on a number of critical policy dockets. Here's an update on works in progress:
 
Feed-in Tariff (Docket No. 2008-0273)
The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program is now oversubscribed (180 MW requested for the 80 MW program), marking successful implementation of this keystone energy policy. The FIT program Independent Observer and HECO Companies continue efforts to monitor the queue to prevent unqualified projects from taking capacity from qualified projects. On May 4, 2012, the HECO Companies filed a motion for clarification seeking the further abilities to manage the queue by removing projects. Blue Planet supports addressing these issues by expanding the FIT program to allow more projects and improving the grid to address reliability concerns. The Commission has ordered a review of Tiers 1 and 2 in October 2012 which will allow Blue Planet to advocate for further expansion and improvements to the FIT program.
 
Rule 14H (Docket No. 2010-0015)
The new version of Tariff Rule 14H, which substantially improves grid access by reducing the need for costly and time-consuming interconnection requirements studies, remains in effect. Motions for reconsideration threatened by the HECO Companies and Consumer Advocate did not materialize. Blue Planet is now shifting its focus to further improvements to Rule 14, based in part on improvements to California’s Rule 21.
 
Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards (Docket No. 2010-0037)
On January 3, 2012, the Commission issued its final decision and order adopting the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards (EEPS) framework. The Commission subsequently closed the docket and established a Technical Working Group (TWG) to implement the EEPS. The TWG members include the utilities, Hawaii Energy, and government agencies. Blue Planet successfully petitioned the Commission to join the TWG and is playing an active role in
implementing the EEPS Framework as a member of the TWG.
 
On-Bill Financing (Docket No. 2011-0168)
In December 2011, the Commission retained consultant Harcourt Brown & Carey to design Hawaii’s on-bill financing (OBF) program. On December 30, 2011, however, the HECO Companies filed a proposal for a solar water heating “Simply Solar” OBF program. The Commission subsequently consolidated the Simply Solar proposal with the OBF docket. On April 16, 2012, the consultant filed its assessment of the Simply Solar proposal. Blue Planet filed
its brief on the Simply Solar proposal on May 7, 2012. The timing of a Commission decision on Simply Solar is unclear. On April 16, 2012 the Commission also issued an order amending the procedural schedule under which the docket is to conclude in approximately April 2013. Blue Planet agreed to pay up to $200,000 for the costs of the on-bill financing study for the docket, $100,000 of which was paid in 2011. Fortunately, the total cost was $167,275, the balance of which ($67, 275) was paid in the first quarter of 2012.
 
Reliability Standards (Docket No. 2011-0206)
Blue Planet continues to be an active participant, leader, and driving force in the Reliability Standards Working Group (RSWG), which was established to identify reliability standards and resolve issues pertaining to the expansion of renewable energy in the HECO Companies' service territories. The purpose of the RSWG effort is to recommend reliability standards, metrics, rules, criteria and processes to determine how the maximum amount of renewable
generation can be interconnected to the grid while preserving grid reliability. Bash Nola, acting as Blue Planet’s consultant, is chair of the Reliability Standards Drafting subgroup. Bash is also active member of the Reliability Data and Metrics subgroup which is addressing metrics and defining ancillary services and requirements, the Minimum Load and Curtailment subgroup which is addressing minimum load/curtailment issues and mitigation measures, the Gap Analysis subgroup which is addressing current studies underway to increase the penetration of renewable energy resources, including distributed PV generation, and defining system mitigation measures to achieve this increased penetration, and the PV subgroup which is specifically addressing PV integration and interconnection issues. The efforts of the RSWG are targeted to be completed by year end with a set of recommendations to be forwarded to the PUC. These efforts will foster understanding of what is required to achieve maximum renewable energy resource penetration, the modernization of the existing HECO utilities’ generating assets, the costs (including production costs), and the impacts to consumers/ratepayers.  
 
Integrated Resources Planning (Docket No. 2012-0036)
On March 1, 2012, the Commission issued an order initiating the Integrated Resource Planning process for HECO, HELCO and MECO. The order, which has been anticipated since last fall, tracks the requirements of the March 14, 2011 IRP Framework adopted in the Docket No. 2010-0108. The IRP process presents a significant opportunity for Blue Planet to advance planning for Hawaii’s clean energy future, in conjunction with the Blueprint. Under the Framework, HECO must file an IRP Report and an Action Plan which covers all three utilities. The Commission has selected Carl Freedman to serve as the Independent Entity overseeing the process. Blue Planet and other parties wishing to serve on the IRP Advisory Group must apply by June 8, 2012.
May 02
2012

Leeward Coast Bulb Blitz

The Leeward Coast Bulb Blitz is in full swing! The goal is to replace 36,000 incandescent bulbs along the Wai‘anae Coast with energy-saving CFLs. This will save the Wai‘anae residents $5.5 million in electricity costs over the lifetime of the bulbs.

Mahalo to the participating school and community groups:
Nanakuli High and Intermediate - Terra Wight
Waianae High - Nikki Kay
Leihoku Elementary - Jenessa Hirayama
Maili Elementary - Rita Grilho
Ka Waihona o ka Na‘auao - Chante Galton
Nanaikapono Robotics - Josette Germano
Waianae Elementary Robotics - Tam Teruya
Kamaile Robotics - Amanda McCracken
Adventist Malama Elementary School - Alio Santos
INPEACE - Keiki Steps - Jojo Suan
City and County of Honolulu - Sec. 8 FSS Program - Judy Pulido

Puuhale O Nanakuli - Matthew Mauai
Fishers of Men Ministry - Lucy Mahelona
Hale Nalu Surf and Bike - Kaimana Pine
Leeward Kai Canoe Club - Edith Van Gieson
Malama Learning Center - Janice Staab
Hula Halau O Napualaikaiu - Georgette Stevens
City of Joy (AOG) Church - Leilani Yee Pong
Parents of Righteousness - Juanita Bancao
Ark of Safety Christian Fellowship - DonnaMae Collier-Sua
New Hope Leeward - Angela Kansou
Hoa Aina O Makaha - Gigi Cocquio
Waianae Girls Softball - Just for Fun - Shantell Kahalepo
Hope Chapel Waianae - Kellen Smith


Upcoming Bulb Exchanges

Bulb exchanges are scheduled through the end of June 2012. Please visit this page or check our events calendar for upcoming exchanges near you. We'll also post upcoming exchanges on facebook.

MAY 12     Hoa Aina O Makaha CFL Exchange
                  Place: Hoa Aina O Makaha Farm
                  Time: 2pm to 5pm

Apr 30
2012

We recently received this heartwarming note from a Blue Planet supporter who devoted her time, creativity, and money to advocate for Hawaii's clean energy future:

Hi, I am a sixth grader from Kamehameha Elementary School. I chose to make recycled can tab bracelets and sell them to raise money for this cause, as a part of my service learning project. I collected the can tabs from friends and family, and my mom donated the Lucky Color Gum elastics from her business. I recruited my mom along with a couple of friends, and we made the bracelets. I am also a girl scout, so during cookie booth sales I sold bracelets as well. I made sure to mention the Blue Planet Foundation and your goal. I created a sign to advertise the bracelets and this foundation. In total, I dedicated 15 hours and 40 minutes of service. Because of this, today I am able to donate all $140 I raised!

Thank you for your dedication, Aya!
Apr 19
2012
aquino.jpgToday we released the results of study that analyzes the economic impact of the state's renewable energy tax credit. This issue has been the subject of much debate this legislative session. We wanted to better understand the exact economic costs and benefits of the credit to the state as a whole, so we asked former University of Hawai‘i economist Dr. Thomas Loudat (who did a similar analysis in 2002 that was reported to the state legislature) to analyze the economic impact.

What we found was remarkable. The existing tax credit yields a clear, significant net fiscal benefit to the state. For every PV tax credit dollar the state invests, the payoff includes:

-- $13.37 stays in Hawai‘i (what we would have sent out of state to import oil)
-- $44.70 in additional sales (from the oil savings circulated into the local economy)
-- $3.17 in new tax revenues (generated from those added sales)

Loudat's findings show that each PV installation also produces new jobs and additional local labor income. A typical 118 kW commercial PV installation, for example, yields 2.8 local jobs each year over the 30-year lifetime of the system.

Blue Planet believes that the tax credit stimulates private investment in renewable power, and these investments provide a community benefit. We also recognize that renewable projects draw federal dollars into Hawai‘i's economy that otherwise wouldn't be here. Dr. Loudat's study allows us to assess what these benefits are worth.

While Blue Planet supports the existing tax credit, we are backing a measure to reduce the tax credit from 35% to 20% over the next three years. This and other changes to the law are currently contemplated in the Senate Draft of House Bill 2417. Acknowledging that the price of PV systems has dropped dramatically, Blue Planet's position is that the state's share in incentivizing the systems can and should decrease. But it is also essential that we maintain the right tax credit "nudge" to help more and more families and businesses put solar to work for them—with long-term benefits for everyone.
 
Unlike other tax credits, the investment in renewable energy is not a one-shot deal. The state continues to reap economic benefits over the 30-year lifetime of the system--consider the oil costs offset, year after year. It makes sense in the big picture, too, when you look at all the other reasons we need to move beyond oil. The dividends pay off in more than just dollars--there's value in energy security and reducing CO2 emissions, too, and these are benefits that other tax credits don't provide.

As Van Jones wrote in Rebuilding the Dream, "As we think about a new economy, perhaps we can begin to apply some new math — and begin to count what really counts. The earth counts; our kids count; the future counts. Where economic and energy policy meet, we should calculate not only what we spend, but also what we save. And we should consider the payoffs from the investments we make in human and natural capital."

Read more:

"Often-overlooked benefit of solar is how it benefits the economy"
Editorial by Jeff Mikulina and Dr. Tom Loudat, Honolulu Star-Advertiser
"Study: Hawai‘i solar tax credits pay off" by Duane Shimogawa, Pacific Business News
"Blue Planet: Renewable energy tax credit boosts local economy" by Sophie Cocke, Honolulu Civil Beat
"Sun, Shine" by Derrick DePledge, Honolulu Star Advertiser  (Clever headline!)
Apr 17
2012

I ride, therefore i am...

...The change. We're always asking people to "be the change," and for Earth Day we wanted to recognize people who are, indeed, doing that. Through the end of April 2012, Blue Planet will be tagging bicycles parked on the streets of Honolulu with handmade Thank You cards. (Thanks to Red Hong for inspiring the idea!) We've partnered with our friends at McCully Bicycle, who are donating 15 Duravision Pro LED safety lights to award to these planet-saving cyclists.

            


Did you know...

Hawaii commuters drive a total of 26.4 million miles a day, the same distance it takes to circle Earth 1,060 times or make 55 roundtrip journeys to the moon. In 2011, we consumed 465,662,016 gallons of gasoline. Our gasoline vehicles produce 11,350 tons of greenhouse gas pollution each day.Bike Tag

How much bad gas is that? Think of one pound of CO2 filling the space of a balloon the size of an exercise ball, about 2.5 feet in diameter. The CO2 emitted from our cars would fill 22 million balloons each day. Imagine every person in Hawaii releasing 15 huge balloons filled with carbon pollution into the sky, every single day. Every vehicle mile avoided helps to reduce carbon pollution and our dependence on imported oil.

Currently there are two bills pending at the legislature that support bicycle commuting:

House Bill 2626 establishes the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program within the Department of Transportation (DOT) funded through a surcharge for certain traffic violations. This measure seeks to make the routes to schools safer so more students are able to choose walking and biking as a means of commuting. The Federal Highway Administration administers the hundreds of millions in SRTS program funds and provides guidance and regulations about SRTS programs. Federal SRTS funds are distributed to states based on student enrollment. Safe Routes to Schools funds can be used for both infrastructure projects and non-infrastructure activities. The Federal program also requires each state to have a Safe Routes to School Coordinator, which HB 2626 provides within the DOT, to serve as a central point of contact for the state. Hawai‘i stands to gain its fair share of SRTS funding through passage of this measure. By developing more safe routes to schools, walking and biking can be safer and more enjoyable—hopefully establishing healthy habits for life.
 
House Bill 2760 strengthens Hawai‘i’s “complete streets” policy, prohibiting the use of mopeds on bicycle lanes and bicycle paths, among other changes. The complete streets policy, adopted a couple of years ago, encourages the state and counties to design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind—including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. This measure provides additional language to support that policy, although it does not require that complete streets be part of all budget requests or highway developments.

Here are some other links for bicycle commuters and sustainable transportation enthusiasts:

Streetflms
: Film shorts that show how smart transportation design and policy can result in more liveable communities

The BYK Project: Improving the Beretania / Young / King Street corridor

Bike Friendly World: An archive of Treehugger's bike-friendly world articles

Heels on Wheels: Who says you can't hammer in heels?

Hawaii Bicycling League: Join Hawaii's critical mass of cyclists. Advocacy, rides & races, bike education, and more
 

A big MAHALO to all bike commuters who exercise muscle mobility to help move Hawaii beyond oil!


Questions? Comments? Bike rage? SUV rage? Solutions? Please email bike@blueplanetfoundation.org.


   

A cool infographic...

   Biking And Health   
Created by: Healthcare Management Degree
Apr 09
2012
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Ok, we're just getting started, so remember to check us out here for news you can use.
Apr 02
2012
Click the bill links to read our testimony. Check progress of these measures on our bill status page. Read more about our legislative priorities for 2012.

Apr. 3 | 6p | House Committee on Finance, Room 308
SB 2787 SD2 HD1 Authorizes PUC to perform necessary electric system reliability and grid access oversight functions and allows the commission to contract for the services of a Hawaii Electricity Reliability Administrator (HERA)

Apr. 3 | 3p | House Committee on Finance, Room 308
SB 2981 SD2 HD2
Allows the PUC to require that electric utilities examine, within their integrated resource planning process, the phasing out of fossil fuel power plants and replacement of them with clean energy alternatives

Apr. 3 | 3p | House Committee on Finance, Room 308
SB 2752 SD1
Facilitates greater renewable energy adoption by reducing the level of imputed debt assumed by electric utilities when entering into power purchase agreements

Apr. 3 | 3p | Senate Committee on Energy and Environment, Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection, Room 225
HB 2121 SD1
Increases the allowable system size for net-metered systems to two megawatts for State facilities and one megawatt for other systems

Apr. 2 | 9:30a | Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Room 211
HB 2012 HD1 Opposition to subsection that strips funding from energy systems development fund