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Senator seeks collaboration on HECO energy bills

Posted on Jan 27, 2017 in Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Headlines, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Policy, Renewable Energy

(Honolulu Star-Advertiser)  The chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy said Thursday she would not consider bills about Hawaiian Electric Co. if the utility was not included in the process.

During an informational briefing about the Sustainable Hawaii Initiative, Sen. Lorraine Inouye (D, Waikoloa-Waimea-North Hilo) said she would not consider a bill proposed by the Department of Business, Economic Development &Tourism if the department did not collaborate with HECO first.

Inouye said collaboration between the electric utility and other stakeholders is important and she wouldn’t consider bills, “until such time that the utility company is going to agree to make the changes. … Instead of using us policymakers to force the industry to do that. There should be some compromise.”

“We have to start talking to them before bills come before us,” she said.

Jim Kelly, HECO spokesman, said the utility wants to collaborate with the energy community.

“We want to sit down with all of the stakeholders and talk it out.”

At the 11th hour last session, Inouye derailed a renewable energy bill because HECO wasn’t adequately consulted.

“They didn’t communicate with the utility with regards to that (bill),” Inouye said. “That’s why the bill died. The same thing is happening again. … I think there are a lot of things we need to get to in order to have a good cooperation with everybody.”

Rep. Chris Lee, (D-Kailua, Lanikai, Waimanalo) chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, who favored the renewable energy bill last session, said HECO is difficult to work with on bills.

“I spent the last nine years talking to the utility and at times some questions go months without being answered, if ever,” Lee said. “And when the answers come back they often favor the utility at the expense of consumers and local residents.”

The renewable energy bill that died last year would have closed a loophole in the state’s mandate to achieve 100 percent of its electrical generation from renewable resources by 2045. Another bill that died would have provided a tax credit for batteries linked to rooftop photovoltaic systems.

Gov. David Ige’s office introduced House Bill 1040 this session, again trying to close the loophole in the 100 percent renewable energy goal.

Marti Townsend director of the Sierra Club Hawaii said Inoyue’s quotes during the hearing were concerning because it sounds like the Legislature would not consider a bill if the utility does not give its blessing to the measure.

“When the interests of the utility align with the interests of the public, then we will have an opportunity for real collaboration,” Townsend said. “It is the role of Legislature to stand up for the public’s interest and tell the utility what to do.”

http://www.staradvertiser.com/2017/01/27/business/senator-seeks-collaboration-on-heco-energy-bills/ Senator seeks collaboration on HECO energy bills 1/27/17 Kathryn Mykleseth