Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Department of Defense concerned about proposed HECO-NextEra merger

By Henry Curtis

The United States Department of Defense intervened in the proposed merger of NextEra and the Hawaiian Electric Companies.

The Department of Defense’s filed written testimony on July 20, 2015.

“The Proposed Transaction presented by Applicants is not in the public interest, without additional conditions.”

The Department of Defense testimony expressed a number of concerns, among them were Clean Energy, Rates, Risk and Ring Fencing.

Public Utilities Commission Questions
Department of Defense Conclusions

Whether the Proposed Transaction is in the public Interest

Not without additional conditions
Whether the Proposed Transaction, if approved, provides significant quantifiable benefits to the HECO Companies' ratepayers in both the short and the long term beyond those proposed by the HECO Companies in recent regulatory filings

The claimed benefits need to be firmer and a delivery mechanism employed to provide the benefits to Hawaiian ratepayers are needed
Whether adequate safeguards exist to prevent cross subsidization of any affiliates and to ensure the commission's ability to audit the books and records of the HECO Companies, including affiliate transactions

Additional conditions are needed to achieve these objectives

Whether adequate safeguards exist to protect the HECO Companies' ratepayers from any business and financial risks associated with the operations of NextEra and/or any of its affiliates

Additional conditions are needed; including effective ring fencing

Whether the Proposed Transaction, if approved, will result in more affordable electric rates for the customers of the HECO Companies

Possibly yes, but this remains doubtful. Additional conditions on the merger should be proposed to improve the likelihood that rates become more affordable

Whether the Proposed Transaction, if approved, will improve the financial soundness of the HECO Companies

The proposed transactions appears likely to result in increased financial strength and potential improvement to the HECO companies credit ratings; however, there are risks of affiliating with NextEra that should be mitigated

Whether the Proposed Transaction, if approved, would diminish, in any way, the commission's current regulatory authority over the HECO Companies, particularly in light of the fact that the ultimate corporate control of the HECO Companies will reside outside of the state

There is a prospect of diminished local control under Next Era ownership

Whether the financial size of the HECO Companies relative to NextEra's other affiliates would result in a diminution of regulatory control by the commission
The financial size of the HECO companies are smaller than either of NextEra's two financial subsidiaries, FPL and NextEra Energy Resources. Whether the size difference would diminish regulatory control remains a concern

Whether any conditions are necessary to ensure that the Proposed Transaction is not detrimental to the interests of the HECO Companies' ratepayers or the state and to avoid any adverse consequences and, if so, what conditions are necessary

Recommended conditions are presented in DOD Exhibit 3 (26 pages).

Clean Energy

After a merger comes a period of integration that is time-consuming and sometimes rocky.

“The DOD also has a substantial interest in the continued integration of renewable power generation on the public grid that could be affected by the outcome of this proceeding. … The proposed transaction may impact the systems, rate structures, procedures and process of the interconnection, or the financial viability of HECO, and may distract HECO management from addressing the significant challenges it is facing, including reliably integrating more renewable resources, reducing reliance of fossil fuel fired generation, and maintaining the reliability of the grid.”


“It remains doubtful whether the Proposed Transaction will result in affordable electric rates for the customers of the HECO Companies.”

The Applicants propose a four-year rate moratorium but the “Applicants attached several significant caveats to this proposal, including rates could be increased during the moratorium on the basis of ‘compelling financial need’ or the occurrence of an extraordinary expense, such as an expense caused by a tropical storm, an act of terrorism, etc.”

A rate moratorium is not the same thing as a rate freeze. The Applicants would maintain an array of eight other adjustment mechanisms (tariff provisions, surcharges, and tracker mechanisms) which could produce rate increases during the moratorium period. 

The adjustment mechanisms “address ratemaking in a piecemeal manner” and “could be producing net rate increases during a time when HECO's base rate revenue requirement could have an offsetting decrease.”

By contrast, a rate case would allow a holistic review of HECO’s operations.


The Department of Defense noted that FPL and NEER face one set of risks while HEI and the HECO Companies face a different set of risks.

“While FPL is a regulated, vertically integrated utility, it has nuclear generation and faces a number of risks that are not currently present at the HECO Companies. Additionally, NEER also has nuclear generation, including merchant generation, and has other non-utility operations which have risks that are different than those of a regulated electric utility, like the HECO Companies.”

Ring Fencing

The Maryland Public Service Commission staff defined the concept of ring-fencing.

“Ring-fencing is defined as the legal walling off of certain assets or liabilities within a corporation, as in a company forming a new subsidiary to protect (ring-fence) specific assets from creditors.’ Ring-fencing can both fence “in” and fence “out” unwanted financial entanglements within a holding company structure. 

Ring-fencing as a concept includes a number of measures that may be implemented to protect the economic viability of utility companies and their affiliates within a holding company structure. Ring-fencing measures are intended to insulate a regulated utility from the potentially riskier activities of an unregulated affiliate. Insulating the utility is intended to ensure the financial stability of the utility and the reliability of its service.”

The Department of Defense noted that ring-fencing eliminates some but not all of the types of financial risks associated with the merger. 

Even so, “the Applicants' proposed conditions are rather limited and do not provide Hawaiian ratepayers with the minimum protections needed to protect the HECO Companies from risks posed by NextEra ownership or the affiliation with NextEra's other operations, which include non-utility contracted and merchant generation, FPL and NEER nuclear operations, foreign operations (in Canada and Spain), and other non-regulated businesses.”

Like all of the other intervenors, the Department of Defense is not supportive of the merger as it is currently configured.

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Hawai`i celebrations amid astronomy conference, arrests and a storm.

By Henry Curtis

Astronomy is in the news with the opening of the 11-day International Astronomical Union (IAU) conference at the Hawai`i Convention Center, the arrests of activists seeking to protect Mauna Kea and Haleakalā, the Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea  (Sovereignty Restoration Day) celebrations, and the threat from Tropical Storm Guillermo.

Many believe Mauna Kea and Haleakalā to be sacred. They oppose the construction of the $300 million Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Haleakalā and the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) telescope on Mauna Kea.

On August 27 the Hawai`i Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the TMT lawsuit. The hearing will be held at the Supreme Court Courtroom, Ali`iolani Hale, 2nd Floor, 417 South King Street, Honolulu.

Normally between 50 and 200 people attend oral arguments held before the Hawai`i Supreme Court and the Intermediate Court of Appeals. Any member of the public can attend although most attendees are law students, law interns and new lawyers.

This case involves Appellee University of Hawai`i at Hilo's (UHH) conservation district use application (CDUA) for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve, on the island of Hawai`i. Appellee Board of Land & Natural Resources (BLNR) granted a conservation district use permit (CDUP), subject to conditions.

Ka La Ho'iho'i Ea, or Sovereignty Restoration Day, commemorates July 31, 1843, when British Admiral Richard Thomas ordered the British Union Jack removed and replaced with the Hawaiian kingdom flag, ending five months of military occupation by Britain's Lord George Paulet.

King Kamehamea III proclaimed a 10-day holiday and July 31 became an annually celebrated holiday. From this event came the motto of the kingdom “Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka 'Aina I Ka Pono" - The sovereignty of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. Later the expression became the State motto although “sovereignty” was replaced with “life.” The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.

The holiday was revived in 1985 and has become an annual celebration held at Thomas Square. In 1990, Governor John Waihee issued a proclamation acknowledging the 1843 events and officially making July 31 "Ka Hae Hawaii - Hawaiian Flag Day."

The Hawaii Convention Center is in full, but low-key, security mode. Access to the building is limited to one door and by the parking garage. Both are covered by convention center security and police, many of them not in uniform.

Daniel K. Akaka Jr. gave the Oli and Opening Chant for the International Astronomical Union conference. During the opening session some 1,000 people were in attendance. There are 2,500 people from 75 countries who have registered for the conference which is held every three years. This is the 29th gathering and the fourth in the U.S.

Fifty-three press passes have been issued including about 16 for Hawai`i media people from KHON2, Hawaii News Now, Honolulu Star Advertiser, AP, Ililani Media, HPR, KWAI, KKCR, and Hawaii Business.

How many planets are there in the universe? Eight! Because the official definition of planet only covers our solar system.

One of the first sessions of the IAU 2015 conference was on eta-Earths or Earth analogs. These are Earth-sized worlds circling a Sun-like star in an Earth-like orbit. To some, they represent the Holy Grail of exoplanet research.

Could other star systems be as complex as ours?

Our Solar System contains over 170 natural moons, over 12,000 near-Earth asteroids, an Asteroid Belt and the Kuniper Belt. 

The Asteroid Belt located between Mars and Jupiter is occupied by numerous irregularly shaped bodies called asteroids or minor planets. About half the mass of the belt is contained in the four largest asteroids CeresVesta, and Pallas, and Hygiea

The Kuiper Belt extending beyond Neptune is home to three officially recognized dwarf planetsPlutoHaumea, and Makemake. Recent analysis indicates that the Kuiper belt may contain two unknown planets.

In astronomy and astrobiology, the region around a star where a planet with sufficient atmospheric pressure can maintain liquid water on its surface is called the “Habitable Zone” (HZ) of the "Goldilocks Zone." 

Based on Kepler space mission data, astronomers reported that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs in the Milky Way of which 11 billion may be orbiting Sun-like stars. They represent a small fraction of exoplanets which orbit stars. There are also rogue planets, which do not orbit any star.

Some astronomers believe that such definitions are too limiting for potential worlds that could handle human populations.

The first confirmed discovery of exoplanets occurred in the 1990s. The first exoplanets to be found were massive planets that orbited very close to their parent stars and were referred to as “hot Jupiters.” Later discoveries found that large exoplanets are a minority of all exoplanets. 

The upper boundary for exoplanet mass is around 13 times that of Jupiter. Beyond that a stellar object can engage in the thermonuclear fusion of deuterium and thus is star-like.

Some 4,900 possible exoplanets have been discovered with 1,100 confirmed. Astronomers are concerned with false positives and false alarms. False Positives are detections of transit-like signals present in the data that are not due to planetary transits False Alarms are spurious detections caused by features in the target star’s light curve that are not transit like. False alarms can be created by instrumental noise.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

NextEra is financing Jeb Bush Presidential Campaign

By Henry Curtis

Republican Jeb Bush's presidential campaign is being financed by the Right to Rise USA super-PAC. The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting (FCIR) reported that Nextera Energy has joined the PAC’s seven-figure club by donating a million dollars.

One issue that will be core to the Presidential race is Obama's Clean Power Plan which is scheduled to be released at 2:15 p.m. (8:15 a,m, Hawaii time). The plan is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. 

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - "United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday praised U.S. President Barack Obama s plan to tackle greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants, saying such visionary leadership is needed ahead of negotiations on a global climate change deal.Obama s Clean Power Plan is a vital component of meeting a U.S. pledge on emissions cuts for the U.N. climate change summit in Paris in December."

China has surpassed the United States in annual emissions of greenhouse gases, but still trails the United States in terms of the total amount of greenhouse gases released that are currently responsible for climate change. 

Three hundred and sixty five businesses, investors, renewable energy companies and churches wrote a letter dated July 31, 2015 to 29 state governors to strongly support the rules, which they asserted would create jobs and benefit the economy.

The entities supporting Obama's plans including Ben & Jerry's, eBay, Gap Inc., General Mills, Inc., Imperium Renewables, Inc, L'Oreal USA, Levi Strauss & Co., Nestle, SunEdison, The Sierra Club Foundation, Unilever, Unitarian Universalist Association, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 

Brian Deese, a senior advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules represented the “biggest step that any single president has made to curb the carbon pollution that is fuelling climate change."

It is anticipated that the EPA rules will set off a tsunami of legal opposition, some of it couched in states' rights. 

Republican candidates assert that the rule will damage the economy.

Jeb Bush accepts that the climate is changing, but he is less certain about the notion, supported by an overwhelming number of scientists, that human activities have contributed to the problem. 

In 2011 Bush told an interviewer that while global warming “may be real ...it is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately man-made.”

On the campaign trail this year "former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush acknowledged 'the climate is changing and I’m concerned about that.' But Bush went on to say, 'to be honest with you, I’m more concerned about the hollowing out of our country, the hollowing out of our industrial core, the hollowing out of our ability to compete in an increasingly competitive world.'"

"Bush stated that natural gas is the solution. 'We can continue to reduce carbon emissions by taking advantage of the abundance of natural gas.'” 

Huffington Post is covering Jeb Bush's run for the presidency.  "The climate is changing, whether men are doing it or not," asserted Bush at a recent campaign stop. He elaborated that adaptation rather than emission control is the answer.

Jeb Bush Statement on Obama’s Clean Power Plan

“President Obama’s Carbon Rule is irresponsible and overreaching. The rule runs over state governments, will throw countless people out of work, and increases everyone’s energy prices.

“The fact is, U.S. emissions of greenhouse gasses are down to the same levels emitted in the mid-1990s, even though we have 50 million more people. A chief reason for this success is the energy revolution which was created by American ingenuity – not federal regulations.

“Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy. The real challenge is how do we grow and prosper in order to foster more game-changing innovations and give us the resources we need to solve problems like this one.” 

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Imperium Renewables back in the News

By Henry Curtis

The headline read "Renewable Energy Group to Acquire Imperium Renewables.

Accompanying the August 1, 2015 story was a Youtube video featuring Kat Brady which highlighted the disappearance of Imperium Renewables from Hawai`i.

The story started about a decade ago when Hawaiian Electric Company proposed building the 110-megawatt Campbell Industrial Estate Industrial Park Generation Station (Cobustion Turbine 1, or for short, CT-1). 

Life of the Land was the only intervenor in the proceedings to approve HECO's CT-1 application (Docket 2005-0145) and the subsequent proposal to power the facility with biofuels to be produced by Seattle-based Imperium Renewables Inc (Docket 2007-0346). 

Imperium proposed to import Borneo, Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil, to convert it to biodiesel in Seattle that could withstand freezing cold weather, thereby gaining a federal tax credit, and then to ship the biodiesel to the off-shore area of O`ahu. They had no plans on how to get the biodiesel on-shore. 

Widespread community opposition to using rainforest biodiesel to power Hawai`i generators sprang up among community, religious, cultural, social and environmental groups in Hawai`i, Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere around the world.

The Public Utilities Commission held an Evidentiary Hearing. Thereafter HECO re-negotiated the contract at more unfavorable terms to ratepayers and a second Evidentiary Hearing was held. The contract was rejected by the Commission.

Imperium used federal tax credits to ship biodiesel to Europe to undercut European biodiesel companies. The European Commission targeted Imperium with a company-specific tariff.

HECO then signed a biodiesel contract with Iowa-based Renewable Energy Group (REG) to provide biodiesel made from  waste fats and oils. The contracts were approved by Hawai`i regulators. The latest contract ends in November 2015.

In 2014 HECO released a biodiesel Request For Proposal (RFP). The final two competing offers were REG and Pacific Biodiesel Technologies which supplies biofuel to the Honolulu International Airport emergency generator. HECO opted to have Pacific Biodiesel Technologies also supply CT-1 (Docket 2015-0064).

Last week Renewable Energy Group, Inc. announced that it was buying Imperium Renewables, Inc. The purchase would include a 100-million gallon nameplate capacity biomass-based diesel refinery in Hoquiam and a deepwater port terminal at the Port of Grays Harbor, both located in the State of Washington.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Potential Ethical Issues abound in NextEra merger

By Henry Curtis

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA), Division of Consumer Advocacy (Consumer Advocate), contemplated hiring Enterprise Honolulu -- the Oahu Economic Development Board -- to write a portion of their testimony regarding NextEra's proposed acquisition of the HECO Companies.

Enterprise Hawai`i would have subcontracted with former DCCA Director Keali‘i Lopez and former Public Utilities Commission Chair Hermina Morita.

As reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on July 25, 2015 Consumer Advocate Jeff Ono asserted, “We were considering (Enterprise Honolulu) but these ethical concerns came up."

The DCCA reached out for advice from the Hawai`i Ethics Commission in May and received back an email response in June. The Ethics Commission suggested restrictions be placed on any involvement by Lopez and advised against a subcontract with Hermina Morita.

There are numerous conflict of interests between the HECO Companies and Enterprise Honolulu.

Enterprise Honolulu receives funding from Hawaii Energy Industries (HEI).

Former HECO Senior Vice President Robbie Alm is Chair of the Enterprise Honolulu Board of Directors, and is still receiving severance pay from HEI.

David J. Reber is a member of the Enterprise Honolulu Board of Directors and is a partner with Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel. Currently, and for the last three decades, the Goodsill law firm provides legal representation to the HECO Companies in regulatory matters before the Public Utilities Commission.

Other Enterprise Honolulu board members are James Ajello who currently serves as the HEI executive vice president and chief financial officer; Mike McCartney, Governor Ige's Chief of Staff; and Murray Clay, the Managing Partner of merger intervenor Ulupono Initiative.

Enterprise Honolulu lists several "partner organizations." Several of these partners are intertwined with the HECO Companies, including the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i, Honolulu Chamber of Commerce, Maui Chamber of Commerce, Hawai'i Island Chamber of Commerce, Kauai Chamber of Commerce, and the Molokai Chamber of Commerce

Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai'i include 
HECO Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Tayne S. Y. Sekimura, former HECO CEO (1995-2009) T Michael May, and Hawai`i Gas President and Chief Executive OfficerAlicia Moy.

MECO's Mahina Martin is a director of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.

HELCO President Jay Ignacio serves as a director of the Hawai'i Island Chamber of Commerce.

Instead of Enterprise Honolulu the Consumer Advocate has hired Maui-based Ian Chan Hodges of Ingenuity Underwriters.

According to LinkedIn, Ian Chan Hodges "founded Responsible Markets LLC in 2000 with the overall mission of leveraging market imbalances profitably for long-term good. Serves as the national coordinator of the American Ingenuity Alliance which works to facilitate joint ventures between inventors, investors and unions to support game changing innovation for the purpose of creating and retaining good jobs.

Played a catalytic role in a number of initiatives, including:

Helped spearhead the drive to pass Hawaii's Act 209 in 2011 creating a new type of corporation that is structured to balance meeting the interests of shareholders with the accomplishment of specific public benefits. Sustainable Ingenuity Corporations can also enable inventors and entrepreneurs to better protect, value and commercialize their intellectual property.

Co-founded Ingenuity Underwriters to provide commercial, valuation and litigation risk underwriting services to enable the commercialization of intellectual property and facilitate the creation and retention of good jobs in the United States as well as to promote the progress of scientific innovation and protect inventors.

Worked with national transportation industry stakeholders to develop a working 'value for value exchange' model for use within bankruptcy proceedings to promote asset maximization and job creation potential of intellectual property with a particular focus on 'green' technologies.

Engaged in individual brainstorming sessions with trustees from large pension funds to develop new models of investment in healthcare and clean transportation technologies among other areas.

Secured a commitment from one of the nation’s largest banks to provide $150 million in financing for Hawaiians on their homelands. During this bank’s merger with another large national bank, negotiated a multi-million dollar commitment to capitalize a native Hawaiian community development financial institution.

Played an instrumental role in the community friendly buyout of a Hawaiian hotel

Ian Hodges is son of Tony Hodges, an early leader of Life of the Land. Tony Hodges is often incorrectly described as the founder of Life of the Land, an organization actually founded by 15 women including Ian's mother Madelyn "Benni" D'Enbeau and grandmother Celeste Naomi King.

The testimony of the Consumer Advocate is due on August 10. NextEra decided to jump the gun by asking a series of questions that the Consumer Advocate had to answer by July 31. Some of these questions are listed below.

"Do you believe the proposed change of control can or will result in benefits to the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ customers? If so, please identify and describe in detail all such benefits. If not, please explain."

"Please state all concerns you have regarding the proposed change of control. For each concern expressed, please state how such concern should be addressed."

"Do you believe NextEra Energy has expertise that the Hawaiian Electric Companies do not possess? If so, please explain."

"Do you believe NextEra Energy’s experience in deploying smart meters and smart grid technologies in Florida can benefit the Hawaiian Electric Companies in deploying smart meters and smart grid technologies in Hawai’i? If so, please explain. If not, please explain."

"Do you believe NextEra Energy’s experience, resources or expertise can benefit the Hawaiian Electric Companies with respect to the following: a. Modernizing electric grids in Hawai’i? b. Increasing the use of renewable energy in Hawai’i? c. Utilizing energy storage? If so, please explain. If not, please explain."

"Do you believe the proposed change of control, if approved, will impact the ability of the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ employees to provide safe, adequate, and reliable service at a reasonable cost? If so, please explain in detail and provide any documents supporting your explanation."

The Consumer Advocate gave a lengthy reply objecting to each question. Part of each answer focused on timing.

"The Consumer Advocate’s Direct Testimony is scheduled to be filed on August 10. To the extent the question posed is relevant to positions taken by the Consumer Advocate, the testimony filed on August 10 will address this topic after our work is completed and a position has been finalized. 

The Consumer Advocate also objects to this question because it seeks to compel a statement of the Consumer Advocate’s position on issues in this docket in advance of the date scheduled for that testimony to be filed, thereby, limiting the Consumer Advocate’s ability to complete its analyses prior to submission of the corresponding testimonies."

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

3,500 astronomers converging on Waikiki

By Henry Curtis

The 29th General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will meet at the Hawai`i Convention Center during the first two weeks in August. 

The Hawaii Convention Center has issued warnings to people who live and work nearby to expect the possibility of protests.

Convention Center General Manager Teri Orton explained the situation to Hawaii News Now.

"We have designated areas on Atkinson Drive for people to assemble and peacefully protest in a safe manner. We respect the right of people to exercise their free speech, but we also expect these protestors to not interfere with the activities of IAU or its attendees. We have a comprehensive security plan in place to address any protest scenario that arises.”

"Law enforcement officials said the Convention Center has already hired a large security contingent and the state sheriff’s division will have officers on standby inside the facility to respond if there are any significant problems. An HPD spokeswoman said, 'HPD expects any protests to be peaceful and will have both uniformed and plainclothes officers on hand to assist with traffic and crowd management if needed

The General Assembly has held international General Assembly meetings every three years since 1922. This will be the fourth meeting in the United States, the previous three being Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1932, Berkeley, California in 1961 and Baltimore, Maryland in 1988. The last two meetings were in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2009 and Beijing, China in 2012.

Yesterday Norio Kaifu, President of IAU, sent a letter to participants on July 29. The letter is excepted below.

"Hawai‘i is one of the world’s foremost sites for astronomical research. The summit of Maunakea on Hawai‘i Island is home to some of Earth’s most productive telescopes, providing rare and magnificent observations through visual, infrared and millimetre wavelengths and producing huge amounts of precious high level data for astronomers worldwide."

I"n light of your upcoming visit to Hawai‘i, the IAU would like to make you aware of some recent events related to astronomy on Maunakea. Over the past several months, Maunakea has made international headlines due to the concerns of some local groups about the construction of a new project called the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)."

"The TMT is run by a nonprofit partnership of universities and government research institutions including the University of California, California Institute of Technology, and the partner countries of Canada, China, India and Japan."

"The TMT is slated to be one of the most powerful 30-m class optical-IR telescopes on Earth, along with similar projects such as the European Extremely Large Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope. The TMT team chose to construct the telescope atop Maunakea as it offers the best observing site in the northern hemisphere."

"The TMT International Observatory received formal permission for construction from the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources in May 2014 after about seven years of procedures that included multiple hearings and environmental assessments."

"However, because of Maunakea’s significance to several Native Hawaiian cultural groups, TMT has become the focus of protests from the Native Hawaiian community seeking to halt the construction of the new telescope."

"The concerns surrounding TMT and Maunakea have pervaded Hawai‘i’s astronomical and local communities, and have developed into an extremely sensitive issue. The IAU welcomes all technological development and scientific progress that pushes astronomy to a brighter future; but, by its statute, is not in a position to support or prevent any individual telescope project."

"Given the sensitivity and complexity of the situation regarding the TMT and Maunakea and the upcoming General Assembly in Honolulu, we feel it is important to make you aware of this situation and of the IAU’s position on this matter."

"The IAU respects all cultural traditions around the world, including the views of those who regard Maunakea as a sacred cultural site."

"The IAU politely suggests that you remain respectful of all views regarding Maunakea, TMT, and the observatories in Hawai‘i. During your stay, you may encounter members from the local community or the media with questions regarding the issues around TMT and Maunakea. You are welcome to talk to these individuals, however we politely ask that, should you decide to do so, you clearly state your opinions as your personal ones or those of your organization."

Attached to the letter were outlines focusing on Hawaiian history, terminology, and local controversies.

"In 1893, American colonists who controlled much of Hawai‘i’s economy overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom in a peaceful yet still controversial coup. In 1898, Hawai‘i became a territory of the United States. Queen Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned at ‘Iolani Palace."

"Most of the population resides on O‘ahu, making some of the business in the state and its professionals more O‘ahu-centered. Residents of neighbor islands are sensitive to this and prefer that their islands be referred to as 'neighbor islands,' not 'outer islands.'”

"Expect to see endless racial combinations, and never assume you know someone’s ethnicity based on a last name or looks."

"Current issues in Hawai‘i and Honolulu that make headlines daily include Maunakea, homelessness, housing shortage (high prices for real estate), rapid development (Ewa, Kaka‘ako), the rail project controversy, and energy (costs, transitions). Tourism is Hawai‘i’s biggest industry, earning $11.5 billion and 33 percent of the gross state product."

"Show respect for local customs by adhering to them. For women, a kiss on the cheek is more common than a handshake. When you receive a lei, it’s a welcoming gift, traditionally given with a kiss on the cheek - it is considered bad luck to give a lei without a kiss, or to put your own lei on yourself. The lei should be left on whenever possible, not taken off or set aside.. It’s meant to show that you are special for a day – enjoy it!"

"Pidgin is a local slang used in Hawai‘i. Don’t try to speak it. Nothing causes local people to snicker like a newcomer who tries to speak pidgin to fit in better. If you are using the Hawaiian language, use common Hawaiian words with correct pronunciation and appropriately show that you are familiar with Hawai‘i to further build trust."

"Island Time: There is such a thing as Hawaiian time: everything happens more slowly – from check-in at the hotel where there’s one person working and ten people in line, to long waits for approvals and responses, to the traffic. The “slow down, this ain’t the mainland” bumper sticker is indicative of an attitude found everywhere. By matching the pace and rhythm of the locals and not rushing things - meetings, conversations, meals - you’ll best reach your local audience and goals. A slow, quiet demeanor is not a sign of weakness, lack of intelligence, or lack of interest - but the opposite. Aggressiveness is equated with rudeness and disrespect. Let others finish prior to speaking."

"In Hawai‘i, relationships are everything."

"The mainland-based companies that succeed in Hawai‘i are those that tend to appreciate the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in business culture."

"Local business style is not an American or an Asian business culture, but based on a strong Polynesian culture with deep roots in the aloha spirit and a culture of sharing, as well as a history of mistrust, an inherent protectiveness of the land, families, and the community."

"Maunakea mountain on Hawai‘i Island is widely considered one of the two best places in the world for astronomy research due to the height of the mountain, the lack of light pollution and clouds, and clear, transparent air."

"The mountain, which is the highest peak in the state, is also considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians. The TMT project has been the subject of protests and action from this group and their supporters to halt its construction."

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NextEra is scrambling for support for their takeover of HECO

By Henry Curtis

There have been several articles which have examined the cross-section of opposition to the proposed merger. 

These include "All Parties to Proposed Energy Merger Agree: NextEra Isn’t Talking" by Sally Kaye; "What's next for the NextEra-Hawaiian Electric deal?: Stakeholders say NextEra 'needs a hearing aid,' not another lobbyist" by Herman K. Trabish; "Ige opposes HECO-NextEra merger" by the Associated Press and The Maui News; and "NextEra-Hawaiian Electric not backing down after Gov. David Ige, others oppose $4.3B sale" by Pacific Business News.

NextEra made their initial approach to taking over the HECO Companies at a time when Governor Neil Abercrombie was expected to win re-election. The Governor mentioned only one entity by name --NextEra-- in his last State-of-the-State address.

At least one person has expressed neutrality regarding the proposed merger.

Former PUC Chair Hermina Morita wrote, "First of all, let me clarify - I am neither for or against the merger" in her blog posting "The Pot Calling The Kettle Black?"

There have been a few voices that have expressed support for the merger. 

"Do criticisms of HEI-NextEra deal move us towards a desired energy future?" by Ian Lind, noted that, "The company’s chairman has characterized HEI as a collection of small, independent utilities, which results in higher borrowing costs than a larger utility with deeper pockets would incur. ...So getting from here to the desired future without the ability to access the deep pockets of a utility giant like NextEra is a big problem that will remain if this merger is turned down. ...In the end, what energy future does the state really want? And if the NextEra merger is turned down, how will that propel us towards that preferred future? I, for one, am interested in seeing the answers to that question."

Patrick Takahashi blogged, "I notice that I may be the only local person who actually thinks that NextEra will be good for Hawaii."

Eric Gleason, President of NextEra Energy Hawai‘i, wrote a viewpoint for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: "Our Commitment to Hawai‘i – A More Affordable, 100 Percent Renewable Energy Future."

One Hawaiian group intervened in the proceedings and recently summarized their opposition.

"Ka Lei Maile Ali`i Hawaiian Civic Club is the only one of the 29 intervening parties in the proposed HECO-NextEra merger proceeding that focuses on Native Hawaiian issues.

Hawaii used to produce its own energy and grow its own food. That has been taken away as Hawai`i is now highly dependent upon imports shipped from elsewhere. We believe Hawai`i needs to return to a position where we trade because we want to not because we have to.

Aloha is more than a word of greeting. It is embedded within us as a principle of how we live. Democracy is another core value, as well as kuleana, in this case, taking responsibility for our own future.  We espouse malama aina and malama kekahi I kekahi, thus we care about the wellness of the land and of the people in general, all the people.

NextEra exhibits none of these qualities. All decisions about how Hawai`i would generate and produce electricity would be control from 5,000 miles away by a highly integrated vertically controlled utility which finds it difficult to play with others. 

NextEra's subsidiary Florida Power and Light is locked in a battle with Florida residents. It opposes a community ballot initiative designed to ask the people if they want more solar. Florida Power and Light's 10-year plan calls for 99 percent of its electricity to come from nuclear power and fracked natural gas.

Fracking is an environmentally and culturally destructive practice with unaccounted greenhouse gas emissions which is causing planetary climatic disturbances. Rising sea levels is directly damaging the islands of our Pacific island neighbors.

NextEra filed a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) against a single working class woman in Ontario, Canada who opposed a new wind generation facility. Since the opponent asked the public for funds to support her campaign, NextEra asserted she was a commercial competitor. NextEra sued her for millions of dollars. Even though NextEra's facility is operational and the woman has relocated to another city, NextEra will not drop the suit. They want to send a message. And the message is not based on Aloha.

NextEra wants to build an inter-island undersea cable that will make O`ahu dependent on Maui. NextEra has been unwilling to discuss impacts the cable will have on the critical marine habitat and important fishing grounds. They has asserted, Wait until we own everything and then we will tell you our plans. Judging by their attitudes towards native people in North America, they lack a cultural perspective. NextEra has built renewable energy projects on sacred native american grounds.

Our future will be locally owned and locally controlled energy service companies which focus on sustainability and culturally responsible energy that will serve the needs of the people.  NextEra simply does not meet the need."

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Alan Oshima and Eric Gleason will keynote Hawai`i Conference

By Henry Curtis

The 7th Annual Asia Pacific Resilience Innovation Summits & Expo (APRISE) will convene next month. The conference and expo will bring together Corporate, Military, and Government Leaders.

Very few members of the general public attend. The minimum entrance fee of $500 is sufficient to keep most of them away. In addition, no panels dwell on grass-roots community, environmental or cultural issues. 

The conference has a chance of regaining some of its excitement and displaying ground-breaking technology prototypes, both of which were evident during the early years of the conference. 

Last year the conference was over-shadowed by the first annual Maui Energy Conference, and the first Hawai`i Island Energy Conference, as well as having taken place just after the stunning primary defeat of former Hawai`i Governor Neil Abercrombie.

APRISE and the related Asia Pacific Clean Energy, Islands Innovation and Pacific Defense Energy Programs will be held at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu from August 24-26, 2015.

The opening keynote speeches will include six men involved in the proposed HECO-NextEra merger as well as one woman speaker. The initial speakers include Governor David Ige, Hawaiian Electric Company President & CEO Alan Oshima, and NextEra Energy Hawaii President Eric Gleason.

The Hawaiian Electric Companies and NextEra are two of the five platinum sponsors of the conference. The speeches of Oshima and Gleason will come one-week before the HECO and NextEra rebuttal testimony must be filed in the Public Utilities Commission merger proceeding. Will their speeches focus on building rah-rah enthusiasm for the merger or on fixing substantive problems with their previous filings?

Later in the day Keiki-Pua Dancil, Hawaiian Electric Company's reticent Director of Business Strategy Development, will speak on community solar. Her picture is missing from the conference page listing the nearly 100 speakers who will address the 1,000+ attendees.

A lop-sided panel chaired by ThinkTech's Jay Fidell will examine Distributed Energy Resources

"Hawaii leads the nation with a 100% Renewable Portfolio Standard and unprecedented growth of solar rooftop installations. The panel will focus on critical policy issues for solar and other distributed resources in Hawaii."

The panel will have four proponents who favor radical surgery to cutting existing net energy metering programs: HECO's Jim Alberts, KIUC's Michael Yamane, ProVision Solar's Marco Mangelsdorf and former Hawaii PUC Chair Hermina Morita. Manglesdorf and Morita have written joint viewpoints challenging the existing net energy metering program but have not yet offered any substantive technical analysis justifying their position. Perhaps they will do so at this conference.

One the other side will be one person, Warren Bollmeier, from the Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance (HREA). Absent from the panel will be the solar industry, the major benefactor of the residential net energy metering program.

Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance is a broad coalition representing the utility-scale rather than the residential-scale energy sector. HREA members include Hawaii’i Gas, Pacific Biodiesel, the Yamamoto Caliboso, LLLC law firm, SunEdison, SunPower, Apollo Energy, Hawi Renewable Development, and Renewable Energy Services.

Hawai`i PUC Commissioner Lorraine Akiba will chair a panel on Energy Efficiency. 

Representative Chris Lee will speak on ambitious state-wide energy goals.

At least six representatives of HECO will address the audience. In addition to Keiki-Pua Dancil and Jim Alberts, other HECO speakers include Dora Nakafuji, Colton Ching, Bryan Tepper, and Richard Barone.

The APRISE Advisory & Steering Committees consist of 25 members from the military, business sector, economic development, government, utility and university sectors.

Several representatives of the media have attended and reported on past conferences. These media sources have included Pacific Business New, the Honolulu Star Advertiser, Civil Beat, `Olelo Community TV, Disappeared News, and Ililani Media.

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