Trump has been busy, but so have I. Let’s create some good news for the climate! Check out my BRAND NEW website. Use it to EASILY submit testimony on some clean energy legislation for the State of Hawaii. You work a little, I work a lot, and together we get something done!
MY OFFER: I will follow 3 Bills and submit printed testimony on your behalf every time the Bills go to another committee, cross over to the other Chamber, etc. I will change the salutation, date and NOTHING else. It takes time to follow Bills and hearings can be last minute. Your voice will be heard all along the way without the extra work. Full text of these Bills is available at: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov (just put in the Bill #).
Send your testimony to me at: email@example.com
WHAT TO WRITE (in your own words)
- First sentence: I support, support, support, or SUPPORT Bill _________.
- Write just a couple sentences with one or two reasons for supporting.
- Sign off, Your Name
1. SB2155. The Senate Bill requires the State Employee Retirement System (ERS) to divest its investment portfolio of coal, oil, and gas companies within five years. We want the environmental benefits – to reduce the power of Oil Companies to block efforts to slow and eventually reverse Climate Change. However, there are also financial reasons that divestment is prudent. Fossil fuels do not outperform other investments, and are likely to perform poorly the future.
Talking points – why fossil fuel is now a risky investment for our ERS to have in its portfolio:
- More stringent emissions policy globally poses a “stranded asset” risk—the idea that companies might have to leave reserves in the ground that they already count on their balance sheets. When it is clear their projected future revenues will not be realized, the value of their companies and stocks will fall.
- The divestment movement itself will weaken the value of fossil fuel stocks. 503 Cities, Universities (including UH), Corporations and other groups representing $3.4 trillion in assets already committed to divest their endowment from fossil fuels. One of these is the German insurance company, Allianz SE, who is one of the world’s largest financial asset managers and has no ulterior environmental motive, but understands risk well.
- There will be carbon taxes in many if not most countries that will directly impact the profit margins of fossil fuels firms.
- Fossil fuels will not be able to compete with renewable energy. Fossil-based prices are rising since the easy oil sources have been tapped already, while renewable prices are falling fast. In just the last five years, solar photovoltaic module prices have fallen 80 percent and wind turbines have become 29 percent less expensive. Moreover, after the initial investment, renewables such as wind and solar, have no fuel cost.
- Fossil fuels will soon face diminishing governmental subsidies and benefits. Fossil fuels have received as much as half a trillion dollars per year in subsidies from the U.S. alone.
- The cost of transition is not high. Client demand has resulted in not only “green funds” but also mainstream asset managers (ex. BlackRock) offering funds free of fossil fuel.
- Fuel prices are volatile due to the breakdown of OPEC. Saudi Arabia has increased output as a tool to undercut their enemy, Iran.
2. HB2567. The Bill will require the current NextEra acquisition or any future utility merger to meet the standard of “substantial net benefit” to our State in order for the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to approve it. Currently the standard is “in the public interest” which NextEra and HECO have pushed to define in the PUC hearings as: “do no harm.” The Bill gives the PUC leeway to decide case by case what defines substantial net benefit, so they will still have autonomy. The Consumer Advocate (who represents the people on issues related to the utility) supports the Bill, not surprisingly NextEra opposes it.
- Clarifies existing law that has been controversial in the Nextera – HECO merger hearings. “In the public interest” is seen by some to mean a benefit, but is seen by NextEra and HECO to mean only “absence of harm.”
- Risks associated with change in ownership should be avoided if there is no likely benefit to our State. A change in ownership of our utility increases costs to the utility (the $3.4 billion purchase price at the very least) and leaves ratepayers with a service provider with no local track record.
3. HB2649. Now our utility is allowed to cover ALL of their costs with ratepayer charges and then take a set profit on top of that (a no risk business model). This causes the interests of the utility (to spend money) to be misaligned with the interests of customers (to save money). The more the utility spends, the more profit they make.
This bill requires the PUC (by 2020) to establish performance incentive mechanisms that directly tie electric utility revenues to the utility’s achievement on performance metrics. These metrics may include compliance with the renewable portfolio standards, electric rate affordability, electric service reliability, levels of customer service, public information access to electric system planning and customer energy usage data, integration of renewable energy sources and timely execution of competitive procurement of processes. There is an open docket in the PUC to look at “de-coupling” total costs from the profit. However, without this Bill, the PUC may or may not include performance as a part of that.
Talking points HB2649:
- This Bill clarifies the utility’s need to change its business model to meet the performance standards important to our State in order to maximize profits.
- The outcome of the existing PUC Docket is unknown, but it does not include important performance outcomes included in this Bill such as transition to clean energy.
- This Bill corrects the lack of incentives to: control power supply costs (especially fuel costs); to pursue independent, third party clean energy projects; and to retire inefficient fossil generating units.
They say third try is a charm, and it was for me. First, I went to an invite-only HECO meeting which was a PR ploy to show us that HECO employees are locals too. I just left sad they were all at risk of losing their jobs if NextEra takes over. Then I went to the PUC listening session, in which HECO and NextEra (intervenors who were not supposed to participate) had employees, sub-contractors, recipients of charitable funds, and members of the union they just struck a deal with say how they just knew their bills would go down with NextEra. There was no way they could have known, since NextEra doesn’t know, but they do know who pays their bills today. There were even more people opposed, but still I left a bit sick to my stomach. Last night, I finally went to a meeting that left me feeling hopeful about Hawaii’s energy future.
Representative Chris Lee, Robert Harris (Sunrun), Henry Curtis (Life of the Land), Stanley Chang and Rebecca Soon (Pacific Solutions).
Rep. Chris Lee and some NGOs offered brief comments and then answered questions about the takeover and other options. Here are some things that struck me:
- It is not too lake to comment to the PUC. Email your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org. For NextEra takeover, reference Docket #2015-0022. It will make a difference.
- Anyone (Nextera, Muni, or Co-op) who buys HECO does not bring cash savings, they take out a loan which is paid back by ratepayers, in addition to their payments for services. An astute participant pointed out that the ratepayers already paid for the utilities’ infrastructure the first time around, so now they were just buying the same stuff twice. At least with the Muni or co-op they won’t have to keep buying it every time the company changes ownership.
- Also, since Munis and Co-ops don’t have greater profit tied to greater costs, they have incentives to be more efficient and not to “gold plate” all the wiring.
- Other places the utility franchise granting a risk-free monopoly is NOT in perpetuity. There are fixed terms (like 5 years) and there is an open, competitive bid at the end of the term.
- Our legislature can get us out of our current not-very-good-deal to either condemn the existing franchise and set up limited terms, or to force a sale (if HECO is not willing).
- When I went to look up King Kalakaua’s original deal terms, I found he may not have been so naive after all. If you believe this site (http://islandbreath.blogspot.com/2013/10/hawaii-tried-to-end-heco-monopoly.html) he only granted 25 years and then Queen Liliokulani refused to re-affirm the deal and 5 days later was overthrown. Maybe this is not first time electric power has played an important role in Hawaii!
- In thinking about Co-ops: I heard that Kauai (a co-op since 2002) was a bust because it had the highest rates. What I learned (and confirmed) was that they had 60% higher rates when they became a co-op and they have closed the gap, kept rates flat since 2008 while the other islands have risen, and refunded $30 million to co-op members.
- In thinking about a Muni: I know everyone has negative stereotypes of our public sector, but having worked at the University and DOH in HIV/AIDS I have only encountered dedicated professionals with excellent results. I wonder if under-funded sectors with poor results give everyone a bad name. Regardless, a Muni could contract out different parts of the business. Production should be separated out no matter who owns the utility. But even management could be given on a fixed term contract to a rock-star Muni like Sacramento until we get the hang of it.
- Finally, as my father and I walked out of the meeting, he asked me who “this Chris Lee guy” was. He lives just outside of Chris’ district and I was pretty surprised by the question, so I asked what he meant. He said, “Well he is sticking his neck out and acting like a young, idealist guy trying to make changes. I am not used to seeing that, everything that comes out of our politicians is usually so bland like they are playing it safe.” I could only think to answer that for Chris maybe this particular career was not an end in itself, but just a means.
Come listen and ask questions tomorrow night in Kailua. Our Rep Chris Lee is putting himself out there to try to stop bad things from happening, lets support him!
THE CARBON NEUTRALITY PROJECT Integrating communities in a movement to solve climate change
The premise of our project is simple: with our user-friendly webpage, participants can calculate their own CO2 emissions, and the number of trees they need to plant to sequester their emissions. By removing the CO2 we produce, we solve the root cause of climate change while also helping to restore native ecosystems.
How do we plan to do it, and what have we done so far? Our website will be open to all, but we will get the movement started with schools and community groups.
1. Teach school children, their families and other community groups about climate change with an interactive curriculum. We worked with Hau’ula Elementary and are currently refining the curriculum with Lanikai Elementary.
2. Have a website that calculates individuals’ emissions and how many trees they need to plant to sequester it. By calculating a carbon deficit (i.e., the carbon that we produce that is not sequestered by our trees), the website will allow friends, classrooms, and communities to compete to be the most carbon neutral! The calculations and concepts are finished; we just need to fund the web design.
3. Make it possible for busy people to care for the trees. Seedlings need frequent watering and weeding to survive and our participants are busy. To overcome this challenge, we invented a low-cost watering system that draws water as needed from a bucket, so users only need to fill up a bucket of water about every two weeks. The first version of the watering system has been tested since April and our seedlings in Hamakua Marsh are thriving! The “new-and-improved” version is ready to be tested by Lanikai Elementary students this November.
4. Connect our project with conservation organizations. State, federal and private organizations own or manage land that they want to restore, but many lack funding for sufficient labor. Working with these organizations provides them with the labor they need, and provides us with the land we need to plant our trees so we can become carbon neutral. Our first partnership has been with DLNR to restore Hamakua Marsh, the largest remaining natural wetland in the state and home to many indigenous species.
What needs to happen now?
1. Develop a professional website. Assessing carbon neutrality for each individual and allowing them to compete requires a website that does a lot of calculations and connects people through social media. A professional website will also foster community participation and allows sharing our conservation work with the rest of the world. Cost: $10,000.
2. Create a mold for the smart watering system and produce the first batch. The original units were hand built so the systems could be tested, but this is not sustainable. The design is complete, but we need a factory mold to mass-produce the waterproof casing cheaply. In the long run sales to forestry programs can subsidize our school program, but we need seed money to produce the first batch. Cost: $10,000.
How can I help reach these goals by year-end 2015?
Make a tax-deductible donation to UH Foundation, Carbon Neutrality Project
Donate $1,000+ We will plant a native tree in your name! You will receive a photo, information on your tree, and can visit if you want.
Donate $50+ You will be sent a link to our Website when it is ready. Your online profile will be marked with “founding member” status!
Questions? Contact Dr. Camilo Mora at email@example.com and Dr. Lisa Marten at firstname.lastname@example.org