Hundreds of solar company employees rally against controversial energy bill

They say the measure will decimate the solar industry but proponents say the state needs broader sources for energy.
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 7:57 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 8, 2022 at 8:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of solar company employees and clean energy advocates rallied at the state Capitol on Wednesday.

They urged Gov. David Ige to veto a controversial energy bill that would result in massive job losses and higher energy prices.

Hawaii Energy Connection Managing partner Chris DeBone added there are thousands of solar rooftop projects already planned for the upcoming years.

He said measure would create a massive layoff.

“There’s a lot of people out of jobs and that is one thing that’s going to happen,” said Kini Sofa, a warehouse manager at Inter-Island Solar Supply.

Meanwhile, those who support the bill said the state needs to broaden its array of firm renewable sources.

They added that over relying on intermittent sources — like solar and wind — will make it difficult for a utility to provide reliable services to its customers.

“We need a reliable source of energy that we can depend on 24/7,” said state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz. “We’ve been talking about diversifying our energy portfolio. I think it’s scary to think that we’re going to rely on mostly intermittent energy.”

The bill is an add-on to the state’s goal of becoming 100% independent of fossil fuels by the year 2045.

The measure also requires that at least a third of the energy supply come from more firm sources such as geothermal, hydroelectric and biomass.

However, clean energy advocates said they suspect Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC as one of the prime beneficiaries of the legislation.

According to advocates, the biomass company burns wood chips to produce electricity at a cost critics said is twice the amount of solar.

They added that Honua Bioenergy had their application recently rejected by the Public Utilities Commission.

“To say that we can’t go with a cheap alternative, that we have to go with more expensive alternatives because someone is being greased, makes no sense,” said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land.

But Dela Cruz said the bill does not favor any single industry.

“If we don’t start to invest in firm renewables, then we’re always gonna have to rely on fossil fuel plants as backups.”

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