Easy way to support a few clean energy bills

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: lisamarten@hawaii.rr.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

THE BILLS

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.

Talking points:

  • 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.
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About Dr. Lisa Marten

I love my children, I love the ocean and the mountains, and I don't feel reducing my carbon footprint is enough anymore. I fear the things I love are at risk and I am doing all I can to learn more about how to stop that and to bring others along for the ride with me.
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