Governor vows to install undersea cable despite opposition
ByAlan Yonan Jr.
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 10, 2013
Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Monday reiterated his administration’s commitment to connecting the state’s electrical grids with an undersea transmission cable, telling officials gathered for a global energy conference that such a strategy would allow the islands to share renewable energy resources and ultimately bring down electricity costs.
Abercrombie, in the opening address at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Conference, said false starts in the past by policymakers and others in Hawaii’s energy industry derailed efforts to reduce the state’s dependence on imported oil and bring down energy costs.
“This time we are going to take full advantage and press forward relentlessly on our diverse resources such as geothermal, solar, wind, hydro, bioenergy and biomass,” Abercrombie said.
“We believe that connecting the islands through an integrated, modernized grid is the best way to utilize our islands’ best resources at a scale that will reduce cost. This means lower rates on the neighbor island as soon as they‘re connected,” Abercrombie said.
Toward that end the Abercrombie administration filed comments Monday, responding to a Public Utilities Commission investigation started in July to determine whether a proposed Oahu-Maui interisland transmission system is in the public interest. Officials have said an interisland transmission cable, if approved, would start with an Oahu-to-Maui leg.
The PUC opened the investigation after a series of significant new developments regarding Hawaiian Electric Co.’s renewable-energy plans, including one to generate wind energy on Lanai and transmit the electricity to Oahu via an undersea cable. Among the developments were the sale of Lanai to billionaire Larry Ellison, and changes ordered by the PUC in the bidding process HECO used to select developers for the renewable energy projects.
Abercrombie said his push for the undersea cable would not be dissuaded by opposition from several community and environmental groups on Oahu, Lanai and Molokai.
“We’re committed to doing this,” Abercrombie said. “We’re going to do it. Our strategy is to balance technical, economic, environmental and cultural considerations,” he said.
“Yes, we have to take points of view into account. But opinion that is merely opinion is not going to be good enough. It has to be science-based; it has to be reality-based in terms of the political nature of what is involved in global pricing right now where energy is concerned.”
Mark Glick, administrator of the state’s Energy Office, said the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism hired energy consultant Navigant to help it prepare the document filed with the PUC making its case for the Oahu-Maui cable.
“We looked at it with very clear eyes. If it didn’t pan out economically and technically, if it didn’t provide other value, we wouldn’t have supported it,” Glick said in an interview.
“I think it (the PUC filing) will provide a very clear, objective, defensible position and a very strong case for why it is in the public interest,” Glick said.