HECO responds to PUC chairman's criticism of company's actions - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

HECO responds to PUC chairman's criticism of company's actions

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hawaiian Electric, rebuked by its top regulator for a pattern of renewable energy braking actions, replied Friday morning that it’s “as frustrated and disappointed as everyone that these developers have encountered serious problems.”

Randy Iwase, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, issued a rare statement of concern Thursday, enumerating recent Hawaiian Electric actions to slow or stop renewable energy projects. Each action came with its own explanation, but Iwase seems to see a pattern.

“Collectively,” he said, “these events send the wrong message to third party developers that desire to compete for clean energy business opportunities in Hawaii, and appear to represent a step backwards from the state’s clean energy goals.”

The actions to which Iwase refers to includes the termination of three Oahu solar projects, a move to terminate a biomass project agreement on the Big Island, the end of negotiations with Puna Geothermal, and slow or delayed approvals for rooftop solar systems in Maui County and elsewhere.

Hawaiian Electric spokesman Darren Pai sent a response Thursday morning: "We are as frustrated and disappointed as everyone that these developers have encountered serious problems impacting the completion of their projects.  We proactively sought out projects to get more renewable energy at lower prices for our customers.”

Iwase said the projects at issue were among the lowest-cost clean energy projects to date when the PUC approved them, and added, “I am concerned that the HECO companies have not offered alternative projects that could deliver such low-cost clean energy by the end of 2016 – the date when the solar projects would likely have been completed.”

Sun Edison, whose contract for three Oahu solar farms HECO canceled, has said it could have completed the projects thanks to new partners including Northwestern University. But Pai said Sun Edison has missed deadlines in other states, not just Hawaii, and its share prices have fallen 90%, suggesting its financial issues are profound. Pai noted that another solar project approved at the same time is proceeding to completion.

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