In order for Hawaii to reach the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) of 40 percent renewable energy by 2030, big changes must be made. A number of bills proposed this year seek to knock Hawaii Electric Industries (HEI) off of its energy monopolizing pedestal.
HB2400, which was heard Thursday, Feb. 2 by the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, would separate the businesses of energy generation and distribution. Introduced by committee chairperson, Rep. Denny Coffman, the bill would require utility companies to purchase power–with specific preference given to geothermal power–from independent producers.
Jeffrey Ono, the executive director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Division of Consumer Advocacy was among those who testified in opposition, saying, “There are certain efficiencies when an electric utility owns and controls the generation, transmission and distribution.”
Another testifier in opposition was Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Chair and former state lawmaker Hermina Morita. Morita expressed uncertainty about how the implementation of more independent power producers would affect electricity rates, saying it could result in higher prices. Another concern was the priority placed on geothermal energy.
Following the testimony, the committee deferred the measure, making geothermal energy the state’s main priority. Perhaps the real reason state agencies like the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and PUC were against HB2400 was because they were fully in support of another bill, HB2525, which seeks less drastic energy reform.
Passed with amendments on Feb. 8, HB2525 allows the PUC–in lieu of HEI–to oversee Hawaii’s electric grid access; develop, adopt and enforce reliability standards for Hawaii’s electrical system; and designate and contract a party to serve as the Electricity Reliability Administrator.