Environmental group challenges HECO's contract with Kahuku windfarm developer
Environmental group Life of the Land filed a motion with the Public Utilities Commission to invalidate the agreement that allows Na Pua Makani developer AES to sell the wind generated by its new turbines at Kahuku to HECO.
The PUC heard oral arguments from involved parties today, but they weren't the only ones with a stake in this.
Protesters of the controversial project on the North Shore took to the streets of downtown Honolulu and into the PUC hearing with the message that they want a say in what happens in their community.
"They waived the competitive bidding process. The Na Pua Makani project electricity rate is 7 times the going rate of wind energy and that's a concern," said Sunny Unga, Kahuku resident.
During the testimony, different voices argued the validity of the power purchase agreement. HECO and the state's Consumer Advocate Division defended the contract, but Life of the Land argued AES violated terms and deadlines, including the timeline for obtaining land rights permits and a state environmental requirement.
"The PUC did not evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions and the reliance on fossil fuels at all," said Lance Collins, attorney for Life of the Land. "It just wasn't done and the statute requires that it's done. Last May, the Hawaii Supreme Court in a Life of the Land decision said it says it in the statute, you guys have to do it and they invalidated decision on the Big Island because they failed to do that."
Mark Miller, AES chief operating officer for US Generation, issued this statement to KITV-4: “After more than six years of thoughtful planning, environmental reviews and approvals by all relevant authorities, Na Pua Makani is a fully permitted project on track for commissioning in 2020. We look forward to advancing the Na Pua Makani wind farm in Kahuku to completion and to delivering renewable energy to O‘ahu residents.”
Critics say the HECO contract is too expensive compared to current wind energy market prices.
But HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg says the contract was the best they could get a few years ago.
"We negotiate our contracts very hard. The Public Utilities Commission and the Consumer Advocate look at the contracts and decide whether they are reasonable. We do our best our very best to keep the prices as low as possible," said Peter Rosegg, HECO spokesman.
Opponents believe it doesn't matter when the contract was signed.
"It's when it's coming online, and it's clearly overpriced now," said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land.