(BIVN) – The Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission has again denied a Hawaiian Electric request for an amended and restated Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) allowing the utility to buy energy produced by Hu Honua at its biomass facility in Pepeʻekeo.
The Hu Honua project, rebranded as Honua Ola Bioenergy, has been trying to secure all its needed approvals for years. The Hawaiʻi PUC denied the same request back in July 2020, although the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court vacated the order in May 2021 and remanded the case back to the state’s regulating authority.
The PUC was required to give “explicit consideration to the reduction of” greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in determining whether to approve the Amended PPA.
In its May 23, 2022 Decision and Order, the Hawaiʻi PUC wrote:
… the Commission finds that: (1) the Project will result in significant GHG emissions; and (2) Hu Honua’s proposed “carbon commitment” … to sequester more GHG emissions than are produced by the Project relies on speculative assumptions and unsupported assertions. As a result, the Commission is not convinced that the Project will reduce GHG emissions, and has concerns about the potentially significant long-term environmental and public health impacts of the Project if the Amended PPA is approved.
In addition, the Commission finds that the Amended PPA is likely to result in high costs to ratepayers, both through its relatively high cost of electricity and through the potential displacement of other, lower cost, renewable resources. In comparison, the Project is not expected to deliver unique benefits to HELCO’s system, nor it is urgently required at this time. Upon weighing these considerations, the Commission concludes, based on the record before it, that the Amended PPA is not prudent or in the public interest and denies HELCO’s Letter’s Request.
One commissioner disagreed. “The evidence clearly establishes that the Applicants have met their burden of showing that the Project will result in a significant reduction in GHG emissions over the course of the 30-year Amended PPA term,” wrote Commissioner Leodoloff Asuncion in his dissenting opinion. “The Commission’s decision not only prejudices Hu Honua, but also deprives the community of the benefits that could be realized from the Project, which would provide for the replacement of existing firm dispatchable fossil fuel generation and grid services with Hu Honua’s firm dispatchable renewable energy and grid services.”
The latest decision does not prevent Hu Honua from participating in future competitive bidding. The PUC wrote:
While the Commission is declining to approve the Amended PPA, based on the record before it in this docket, this is not to say that the Project cannot be re-visited in a different context. For example, Hu Honua may bid the Project in a future round of competitive bidding, where, if selected, it would have the opportunity to re-negotiate a new PPA with HELCO, for review by the Commission.