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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 2:23 a.m., Sunday, July 8, 2007

Lingle wants government to use renewable energy

Advertiser Staff

Gov. Linda Lingle has announced that the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has opened an investigative docket to explore ways for state and local government facilities to purchase electricity from renewable energy sources from providers other than the electric utility. The electricity would be transmitted using the electric utility's transmission and distribution system.

"Renewable energy has to be an important component of our state's energy supply in order to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels," said Governor Lingle. "As the second largest purchaser of electricity in Hawai'i (behind the Department of Defense), we'd like to see how the state's purchasing power can not only accelerate the use of renewable energy, but also help to reduce or stabilize energy costs."

Hawai'i's electric utilities currently rely on oil and other fossil fuels for more than 90 percent of their generating capacity. By seeking these direct purchases, the state can proactively help to achieve increased energy independence and stimulate market demand for renewable energy enterprises such as solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, and wave and ocean energy technology.

The PUC action is needed because any electricity generated on a site not occupied by the eventual user must be transmitted or "wheeled" over lines owned by the electric utilities. Therefore the PUC must examine the feasibility of this practice, and whether special tariffs must be created.

Both the Hawai'i Legislature and the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) have asked the PUC to look into the practice of encouraging renewable energy development. In 2004 the Legislature adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 180, which "requested that the commission explore ways to implement intra-governmental wheeling to facilitate government wheeling of electricity, and other regulatory measures to support the development of renewable energy systems by federal, state, and county agencies."

In a letter dated December 21, 2006, DBEDT requested the commission to investigate ways to facilitate the purchase of renewable energy by state agencies.

"The state must 'Lead by Example' in the efficient use of electricity and by purchasing electricity from renewable sources," said DBEDT Director Ted Liu. "We need to take a proactive stance to accelerate the use of renewable energy in order to gain all their potential benefits, such as lowered overall cost and reduced pollution, while creating local jobs."

The commission has named all of Hawai'i's electric companies and the Division of Consumer Advocacy as parties to this docket. Other interested parties may petition the commission to intervene or participate in this docket within 20 days from the date of the initial order June 29, 2007.