Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hurricanes knocked out Public Utilities Commission computer

By Henry Curtis

In anticipation of the potential threat of Hurricanes Iselle and Julio hitting Hawai`i, some offices closed down on Thursday, August 7 and did not re-open until Monday, August 11.

One such office was the Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission. That closure affected normal business practices.

Usually each day, but not on August 7, after closing their office, the Public Utilities Commission Data Management System sends out an email blast to everyone who has signed up to receive their daily blasts.

The Data Management System *DMS) sends out a Daily Activities Report (DAR) which lists all documents filed at the Public Utilities Commission that day including all new applications and all Decisions and Orders.

The blast got lost. The computer shut down Thursday and didn't come on-line until Monday morning. The blast was never sent out.

Meanwhile last April the Public Utilities Commission rejected the HECO Companies Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) Report. The HECO Companies were given 90 days to fix the mess. 

The HECO Companies must replace their deficient three-utility RP Report with individual HECO, MECO and HELCO Power Supply Improvement Plans.

The deadline is August 26. 

Historically the utility would file an application to request PUC approval of something and potential parties would have 20 days to file Motions to Intervene.

But Order 32257 embedded in the August 7 blast proposed a different process. Potential parties have to file before the HECO submittals are filed.

Historically the Public Utilities Commission decides who the parties are and then the parties are given time to think about a mutually acceptable schedule.

This proceeding is also different is that aspect. 

The HECO Companies and potential intervenors have to file their paperwork by August 26.

Then the Public Utilities Commission will issue a single Order identifying the parties and stating the schedule. Much more efficient and time-saving.

In complex dockets like this there are lurkers. Entities who intervene only to monitor issues that may affect them. The lurkers often don’t get involved beyond that.

The Public Utilities Commission added anti-lurking language in their Order opening this docket.

The commission observes that the review to be conducted in this docket will address detailed technical issues concerning the power supply systems of each of the HECO Companies. Potential intervenors or participants are cautioned that they should be prepared to address these issues in depth and to meaningfully participate in the discussion and resolution of same.”

By luck one person asked the Public Utilities Commission Chief Council about the HECO Companies August 26 deadline to file their Power Supply Improvement Plans. That person found out that a docket was already opened.

That chance meeting led to the coconut wireless discovering the existence of Docket No. 2014-0183 which was opened by the PUC on August 7. The deadline for  filing Motions to Intervene is next Tuesday.

The proceedings will probably have two levels of confidentiality, one for material restricted from the public such as sensitive transmission and financial data, and a second level of sensitive data which can only be viewed by intervenors who are non-competitors of the HECO Companies.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Watchdogging Hawaii Energy Policy

By Henry Curtis

In 1989 Hawaii decided to diversify its energy sources. Today O`ahu gets more than 15% of its electricity from Australian and Indonesian coal. The AES Generation Station in Kalaeloa converts coal to electricity.

In 2000 Hamakua Energy Partners went on-line with a large generation facility makai of Honoka`a on the Hamakua coast. It is the largest energy facility in the state which did not go through the Environmental Assessment/ Environmental Impact Statement process. The project was exempted not because it had smaller potential impacts but because it was built with private money on private agriculturally-zoned land.

In 2006 Hawaiian Electric decided to diversify its biofuel sources by using palm oil biodiesel from Malaysia and Borneo. Palm oil producers are destroying the rain forests, displacing native people, killing endangered species, using child labor. The source material for these allegations included a lead story on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

The 2008 HCEI Energy Agreement proposed ending the Net Energy Metering program.

In 2011 Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) signed a contract with Aina Koa Pono (AKP). Biofuel would be made in Pahala using experimental microwave technology and then burnt at HELCO’s Keahole Generation Station. The highly uneconomical Big Island operation would have been subsidized by a quarter of a billion dollars tax paid by O`ahu ratepayers over a 20-year period.

Intervening in PUC proceedings is highly specialized. With the exception of the applicant who is a party, and the Consumer Advocate, which by law is a party in every proceeding, entities must either file applications or motions to intervene. They must be accepted by the PUC to be a party.

The PUC currently has about 16 open contested regulatory proceedings involving energy.

Ranked by the number of times they have been a Party over the past four decades, the top ten are: (1) Consumer Advocate (2) HECO, (3&4) MECO and HELCO, (5) Kauai Electric/KIUC, (6) Life of the Land (7-8) Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance, Hawaii Solar Energy Alliance, (9) Blue Planet and (10) DBEDT.

Life of the Land believes that you can see everything when you wear green-tinted glasses. Everything leaves a footprint. That is unavoidable. The world just looks different. The environment includes everything which thus includes people. Over its 44 year history, Life of the Land has been a party in over 40 dockets. 

Energy is the life blood of society and the economy. Every living entity consumes energy to stay alive. The Sun is a nuclear fusion reactor just six minutes away. A single powerful hurricane, over its brief lifespan, could power the world for a year.

Every energy system, natural or man-made, has positive and negative economic, environmental, social, cultural, taxpayer and ratepayer impacts. Every system has direct and indirect impacts.

Every commercial energy project has externalities; intended and unintended side effects.

Finding them requires looking for them. Some projects and proposals come with red flags.

HECO has an open rate case filed with  the PUC. HECO asserts that the rate case is a net-zero. HECO will save ratepayers $16M. But HECO plans on increase spending in other areas by $16M. Thus it is a wash and ratepayers need not be concerned.

Some biofuel, geothermal, wind, hydroelectric and solar applicants argue that their project have net zero environmental impacts and will lead to lower rates through some unspecified mechanism. 

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Will Smart Cars replace Fixed Rail?

By Henry Curtis

Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan have passed laws permitting driverless (autonomous) cars. Texas passed a law that would establish criteria for allowing "autonomous motor vehicles.” 

Driverless cars are called a variety of names ranging from semi-autonomous cars, fully autonomous cars, self-driving cars, back seat drivers and robotic chauffeur passenger vehicles.

Imagine robot driven ambulances weaving in and out of traffic, crossing double yellow lines and driving against traffic, in order to decrease the time needed to get injured people to hospitals.

Driverless cars are also called Artificial Intelligence Transportation Modules, radar-lidar guided movers, experimental driverless technology, Robo-Taxis, self-driving Google (GOOG) cars and non-human-steered vehicles.

These contraptions will be part of a larger future system of ground, air, marine and multi-modal, high tech relocation systems.

Imaging driving into town or to school and then instructing your car to find some free parking in a residential neighborhood.

“The world's first virtual shopping center opened in Korea. All the products are just LCD screens that allow you to order the items by touching the screen. When you get to the counter, your items are already bagged and ready to go.

The next step is walking the aisles in a virtual store where you tap a computer screen for what you want and then send your driverless car down to the store's drive-thru window.

Bar hopping would also change as customers could have driverless designated drivers.

Some vehicles will have no steering wheel, gas pedal, brakes or even windows.

It will be safe to drive twisty windy roads like San Francisco's Lombard Street which is famed for its steep hairpin turns.

Remote and previously dangerous mountain passes will become the rage, powered by the visitor industry.

Meanwhile, Vehicle Hackers have already arrived.

The Texas Auto Center in Austin uses a web-based vehicle-immobilization system to disable cars when owners are delinquent in their car payments.

In 2010 the Texas Auto Center laid off a twenty-year-old. The disgruntled former employee accessed the web-based system remotely, using the access code of another employee. Over 100 Austin car drivers found their horns blaring and their cars immobilized. 

In 2012 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) gave an $80,000 grant to security engineers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek.

The project involved using remote computers to hack into a "hackable network of computers" otherwise known as a Smart Car. The pair demonstrated that Smart Cars can be remotely controlled by hackers.

Hackers will be able to plan and implement high speed accidents.

The internal car computer system is growing in complexity, controlling everything.  

Cellular telephone and Bluetooth connections can take control of accelerating, gear shifting, windows, seat belts, lights, horn, speedometer, gas gauge, heating, air conditioning, compact disc players, radio volume levels, windshield wipers, door locks, wireless key fobs and even the tire pressure monitoring systems.

Just as some are advocating an all-smart electric transmission grid, others are developing Smart Traffic Grids (controller-area-network bus, or CAN bus) which can interact with an in-car communications networks.

Why take control of a single car when you can control everything? Imagine a driverless UAV filming a race between a hacked driverless train and a hacked Smart Car.

Bugs, viruses, malware and worms can enter the system anywhere, from an individual vehicle to a transportation center.  

One defense is to build ever more complex vehicles which no one can fix except highly specialized high tech centers.

Another approach is the aerial alternative.

Quadcopters, also known as quadrotor helicopters and quadrotors are four-rotor helicopter that are popular among amateur toy-airplane owners since they are easy to make and control.

Combined with the high tech remote controlled unmanned aerial vehicle technology, Smart Quadcopters may become to de facto transport system of the future for the rich.

Congress has set a deadline of September 2015 for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish rules for commercial unmanned aerial vehicles.

 Amazon and Google are exploring the use of “flying insects” for package delivery.

“Autonomy … will make mobility more efficient, but will also open up greater possibilities for dual-use applications and ways for a car to be more of a potential lethal weapon that it is today,” according to a Report written by the Strategic Issues Group within the FBI’s Directorate of Intelligence.

The Guardian obtained the unclassified but restricted report under a public records request.

According to the FBI, driverless cars could become “game changers.” Bank robbers would no longer need a driver waiting outside. The car could navigate and avoid police roadblocks.

One nightmare scenario would involve suspects and police shooting at each other from driverless vehicles weaving in and out of traffic.  

Denby Fawcett reported in Civil Beat (August 5, 2014), “Pesky Drones Snap Photos on Private Property. Should a small model airplane with a camera on it be allowed to fly into your space and take pictures of you?” 

The Honolulu Police Department uses unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor, film and document peaceful marches. 

Schools and film studios use aerials to film surfing contests.

`Olelo community television offers training sessions in aerial filming.

Hawai`i Legislative Response (2012-13)

In 2012 the Legislature passed a joint resolution (SCR156 SD1) to create an exploratory committee to examine the feasibility and necessary resources of establishing an international aviation training center at the Hilo International Airport and an advanced aviation degree training program at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

The exploratory committee proposed three concepts: a helicopter pilot program, a professional unmanned aircraft systems pilot program and a professional airplane pilot program.

The 2013 Legislature approved the goal and allocated $100,000 to further planning. (SB1221 CD1)

Related Articles:

LaserMotive can power aerial UAVs by ground lasers pointed at PV panels on the underside of planes.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Hawai`i Medical Marijuana Dispensary System Task Force to hold public input meetings

By Henry Curtis

Hawaii became the first state in the nation where a legislative body passed a law allowing for the use of medical marijuana. Governor Benjamin Cayetano signed Hawaii’s Act 228 into law on June 15, 2000.

States with medical marijuana laws

Alaska, Oregon, Washington
Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada
Montana, Vermont
Rhode Island
New Mexico
Arizona, DC, New Jersey
Connecticut, Massachusetts
Illinois, New Hampshire
Maryland, Minnesota


One of those patients is five year old Maile Jen “MJ” Kaneshiro. She has a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet's Syndrome which attacks healthy kids in the first year of their life. MJ suffered thousands of seizures a day.

Her parents Jari Kaneshiro Sugano and Reid Kaneshiro of Mililani tried all kinds of treatment. 

In 2013 they were watching CNN and saw the story of Charlotte Figi who also suffered from Dravet's Syndrome. Dr. Sanjay Gupta extracted oil from marijuana and stopped her seizures.

Jari Kaneshiro found that alcohol could be used to extract cannabidiol (CBD) from a high-CBD low-THC strain of marijuana. The alcohol would then be removed and replaced with coconut oil. The extract dramatically reduced the number of seizures that MJ had each day.

The Hawai`i Medical Marijuana Dispensary System Task Force was established by the 2014 State Legislature under the auspices of the College of Social Sciences Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

There are 21 members on the Task Force. Most positions are flexible in that different people can represent the entity in different meetings.  The members can be broken down into five categories.

State (6): Senate and House Health Committee Chairs, Senator appointed by the Senate President, Representative appointed by the Speaker of the House, of Taxation (DoTax), Director of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA),

 University of Hawai`i:  (2): Director of the Public Policy Center, University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR)

Law Enforcement (5): Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General representing Department of Health, Director of Public Safety, Law Enforcement Coalition police chief, City and County of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney,

People (4): caregiver, patient, parent or guardian of a patient under 18, participating physician

Organizations (4): American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, Hawaii Medical Association, Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii, Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii

WHEREAS, Hawaii's Medical Use of Marijuana Law is silent on how patients can obtain medical marijuana if they or their caregivers are unable to grow their own supplies of medical marijuana; and

WHEREAS, many of the State's almost 13,000 qualifying patients lack the ability to grow their own supply of medical marijuana due to a number of factors, including disability, limited space to grow medical marijuana, and an inadequate supply of medical marijuana to take care of their medical needs; and

WHEREAS, a regulated statewide dispensary system for medical marijuana is urgently needed by qualifying patients in the State; and

WHEREAS, 20 states and Washington, D.C., have medical marijuana laws, and 13 of these 20 jurisdictions have an active regulated system of dispensaries; and …

WHEREAS, a regulated statewide dispensary system for medical marijuana will enable qualifying patients to obtain an inspected, safe supply of medical cannabis that is labeled as to  the composition, strain, and strength of the cannabis to be most  helpful to each patient's condition; and …

WHEREAS, establishment of a tightly regulated statewide dispensary system was the number one recommendation of the 2010 Medical Marijuana Working Group; and

WHEREAS, the transfer of Hawaii's Medical Marijuana Program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health in 2015 is an acknowledgement by the Legislature that the program is a public health program

The meetings are all open to the public. 

Senator Espero sought to sunshine the meetings even though Task Forces do not have to follow the sunshine law. Senator Espero also suggested a public hearing for the island of Hawai`i which has now been scheduled for September.


June 24
9-11 am
State Capitol, Room 325
Task Force
Aug. 12
9-11 am
State Capitol, Room 325
Task Force
Sept. 09
9-11 am
State Capitol, Room 325
Task Force
Sept. 10
Public Hearing
Sept. 24
Public Hearing
Oct. 14
9-11 am
State Capitol, Room 325
Task Force
Nov. 18
9-11 am
State Capitol, Room 325
Task Force
Dec. 16
9-11 am
State Capitol, Room 325
Task Force
Aug. 27
State Capitol, Room 325
Policy Subcommittee
Sept. 10
Public Hearing

One of the lively discussions at the meeting centered on the desire by some Task Force members to have Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Ted Sakai and state Narcotics Enforcement Division head Keith Kamita speak at the next Task Force meeting.

DPS had run the medical marijuana program from 2000 to today. The Legislature passed a bill in 2014 to transfer the program to the Department of Health in 2015. 

Many believed the reasoning to be two-fold. 

First, medical marijuana is a health issue not a law enforcement issue. 

And second, DPS is openly hostile to the program. DPS seeks to undermine the program. DPS has used scare tactics in an effort to manipulate the public and the Legislature.

The Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii is a strong supporter of the police, prosecutors and other law enforcement entities. They recommended asking Ted Sakai and Keith Kamita to make a 30 minute presentation at the next meeting.

One Task Force member asserted, “Thirty minutes sounds a little bit long.” 

Another Task Force Member remarked, I’m a little bit confused as to what they would be reporting on because we’re here for dispensaries and they haven't been running a dispensary and so are we going to be talking about parallel topics?” 

The Director of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawaii responded that DPS has “been running the program to date for many years.”

House Health Committee Chair Della Au Belatti asserted, “I would find it valuable simply because the dispensaries are going to have to operate within our State and we will have facilities that will have to be licensed, that are going to be dealing with substances that are on Schedule One.

So we are looking later on down the road, as we look at issues we're going to be looking at security, law enforcement issues. We have law enforcement at the table. So I think it is of value to have them speak to us from their perspective some of the pitfalls that we're going to have to be looking out for.

And it’s fair, I think it is a fair ask of them. May be to even ask them to consider what are some of the challenges, as we transition to the Department of Health?"

A Task Force member inquired, “So then they're presentation would be focused on dispensaries and their role?

Rep. Belatti responded, “No, No I think it is understanding broadly how medical marijuana is being dealt with here because we're not going to be putting in dispensaries in a vacuum. We have a system of law enforcement that currently exists. We have to understand how there's going to be conflict. How can we anticipate those conflicts?

How can we design a dispensary system and a regulatory system that fits within law enforcement?

Understanding from their perspective, where they're coming from, is important to our work. So that we can set up the proper regulatory systems within the law.”

Another interesting discussion occurred regarding dispensaries, direct delivery and home grown supplies.

One Task Force member said it might be helpful to take a step backwards.

I know that this task force is called a dispensary task force but we're kind of assuming that the dispensaries are the proper way for distribution in Hawai`i.

There are other models like delivery, manufacturer to patient direct delivery models that we might also want to take a look at instead of immediately jumping and saying dispensaries is the way that Hawaii is going to distribute medical marijuana to patients."

In California the dispensaries are licensed by the counties. Some counties allow dispensaries and others do not. In counties without dispensaries patients can receive medical marijuana by direct delivery from growers. Some counties have hybrid systems allowing for both dispensaries and direct delivery.

Senate Health Committee Chair Josh Green asked, “If the number is a 1000 that want dispensaries, right, then that kind of changes a lot of the scope of a lot of what we do. Now if the number is 12,000 that want dispensaries and only a 1000 that prefer to grow their own, it could have a vast recommendation difference, right?"

The Policy Subcommittee Chair stated, I think that's one thing that we ought to ask the public about during the hearings that we have on Oahu and Hawaii Island.

I do get the sense from the feedback that I've gotten from other States' experience that the majority of patients don't want to be responsible for growing their own medication.”
The Task Force Policy Subcommittee will meet on August 27, 2014 at the State Capitol Room 325, starting at 2:30 pm. The focus of the meeting will be on supply side issues including commercial production and manufacturing.

The public is invited to attend.

Immediately after the Task Force meeting was held, a second medical marijuana event was held at the Capitol. Organized by Jari Kaneshiro, MJ's mother. The event included a presentation by Robert Ramos & Maricar Dela Cruz. 

Ramos and Dela Cruz just graduated from Farrington High School and are both entering the University of Hawaii, Manoa as Mechanical Engineering majors. 

As Farrington seniors they won a national competition with their well designed multi-media presentation called S.M.O.K.E. (Should Marijuana Offend Knowledgeable Experts).

A fundraiser for MJ will occur on October 4.

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