By Henry Curtis
The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) was launched in 2008.
In the past few months there has been governmental discussions on the need to replace the outdated HCEI 1.0 with a newer version dubbed HCEI 2.0.
This week the Hawai`i Convention Center is playing host to the Asia Pacific Resilience Innovation Summit and Expo.
Governor Neil Abercrombie was to be the keynote speaker. He was a no-show.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that “Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz signed a memorandum of understanding for the HCEI on Monday. …Moniz announced his signing of the MOU during a prerecorded address to the opening session … Abercrombie was a keynote speaker.”
Neither Abercrombie nor Moniz attended the conference. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), if it exists, is being kept under wraps.
Tidbits of information about what might be in the agreement are gradually surfacing.
On September 16, 2014 Pacific Business News quoted Public Utilities Commission Chair Hermina Morita Morita.
“In 2.0, we need to develop a diverse portfolio …It can’t be said in just a sound bite, it’s complex.”
The PBN story also quoted Hawaii Energy Office administrator Mark Glick.
“We will bring in resources from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and working closely with such entities as Ulupono Initiative and Blue Planet Foundation, looking at the biggest challenges with short term plans.”
HCEI 1.0 and 2.0 have a lot in common. Both documents were written in the back rooms and involved secret negotiations between power brokers each seeking to get something out of the agreement.
They are both political documents.
HCEI 1.0 was the product of Republican Governor Linda Lingle and Republican President George W. Bush. It was initiated during the midterm elections.
HCEI 2.0 was launched by Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie and Democratic President Barack Obama. It was initiated just after Gov. Abercrombie announced his failed campaign for re-election.
HCEI 1.0 was the product of intense secret negotiations between HECO, the State and the federal government. The final document referred to HECO and its subsidiaries MECO and HELCO over 400 times. The role of other energy players were minimized.
HCEI 2.0 was also the product of intense secrecy centered at the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
Both HECI 1.0 and HCEI 2.0 refer to the need to be collaborative with key stakeholders; with the understanding that key stakeholders referred to powerful insider elites and not to other folks.
HCEI 1.0 remained a photo static image for five years. The image could not be copied into word documents. Life of the Land made it available in a text version.
One concept promoted in HCEI 1.0 was the need to replace Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) with Clean Energy Scenario Planning (CESP).
Every three years the utility would submit a Clean Energy Scenario Plan to the Public Utilities Commission for review.
The Public Utilities Commission would have “an expedited time period” of six months to review the plan.
The onus for explaining what was wrong with any submittal would fall heavily on the Commission.
“If the Commission rejects all or parts of the CESP, there should be an explanation for non-approval and the implications of that non-approval on the utility’s asset investment and strategic choices for the upcoming three-year period.”
The utility would not have to do things merely because the project was listed in an approved CESP, nor would the utility be restricted from doing things outside of the CESP.
The CESP was openly hostile to would-be intervenors in regulatory proceedings.
“This approval should elevate the status of the preferred resources identified in the Clean Energy Scenario Plan Action Plan to give them a presumption of need in any subsequent siting proceeding.”
If an intervenor entered into a Public Utilities Commission regulatory proceeding, the burden of proof would be switched. No longer would the utility have to justify the project. They could instead assert that the project was mentioned in the CESP. The intervenor would have the burden of proof to prove that the project was not needed.
HCEI 1.0 stressed the need for immediate investment which would drive up short-term costs. The plan stressed that consumers want stable prices and the plan would achieve that in the long-term.
It was assumed by the authors that people and businesses are more comfortable with stable high prices than fluctuating high-low prices because the former allows for better budgeting even though the latter has a lower economic impact to ratepayer wallets.
At the energy conference DBEDT asserted that HCEI 2.0 would move the State in a new direction.
“Six years after its launch the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative is entering a new phase. The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism has partnered with the U.S. Department Energy to replace the existing HCEI governing framework with one that emphasizes action over process.”
A major difference between HCEI 1.0 and 2.0 is the role of the Public Utilities Commission.
As the regulator and decision-maker the Commission felt that its role in HCEI 1.0 was impartial and that they should stay above the fray.
Governor Abercrombie favors a very hands-on approach.
On April 28, 2014 the Public Utilities Commission issued four massive decisions that are re-writing regulatory policy in Hawai`i.
Rather than having the documents quietly released as is the customary way, the Governor had the Commission attend a press conference in his office announcing the decisions.
This press conference was wedged between the Governor’s announcement that he was running for re-election and DBEDT’s announcement that HCEI 2.0 had been launched.
The Public Utilities Commission began promoting and advocating for HCEI 2.0.
DBEDT boldly asserted at this week’s energy conference that HCEI 2.0 would survive the general elections to be held in seven weeks.
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