HECO Plan to cripple….er….triple solar by 2030

bill-problemHECO got their revised “Electric Power Supply Improvement Plan” into the PUC just under the wire.  They laud it as “tripling rooftop solar by 2030″ but solar installers I’ve spoken with say it is more a plan to “cripple rooftop solar.”  Improvement might be just a little bit of an overstatement.

HECO proposes raising the connection fee from $18/mo to $51/mo for existing customers and a whopping $71/mo for new rooftop solar customers.

That immediately changes the payback period from 3 1/2  years to 4.5 years.  The payback period is the time to recoup one’s investment via utility bill savings.

But wait!  It gets worse!

HECO wants to charge an interconnection fee to new rooftop solar customers of $1,500 per KW installed.  Since the average system is about 5KW, this means that in addition to paying for the PV system, the customer will have another $7,500 tacked on to their bill!

Now the payback period is looking more like 14 years.  That’s such a lengthy payback that very few people will even consider installing rooftop solar.

So tell us, HECO, just exactly how will quadrupling  the payback period result in tripling the amount of installed rooftop solar?

But wait!  There’s more!

HECO wants to abandon net metering.  With net metering a customer essentially sells at retail but loses any excess generation over a year.  So they really are selling at some number under retail price of electricity.  What HECO wants is to buy the energy at wholesale and sell the customer at retail.  This alone increases the payback period to 8 years.

What happens when it becomes too expensive to install solar while connected to the grid?  The “Utility Death Spiral” begins.  In that scenario, it becomes cheaper to go off grid with battery backup than to pay utility bills.   As more and more customers go off grid, it becomes more expensive for those left on the grid.

HECO might think that making renewable energy more expensive than abandoning the idea of rooftop solar will prevent it from participating in the death spiral but it is more likely to accelerate it.  A better plan would be to calculate the monthly connection cost to be less than the customer would pay for battery backup and not pile on extra charges that encourage customers to go off grid.

This “Death Spiral” is not advantageous to society.  It is cheaper over-all for customers to be able to install rooftop solar and use the grid for backup.  An interconnected utility can supply backup at a lower cost – especially if they invest in pumped hydro to store excess generation and return it during low generation times.

Even if we discount the interconnection fee and the loss of net metering, the $71/mo cost of connection for new customers is getting quite close to the cost of a battery backup system.  When we pile on the interconnection fee and end net metering, there’s absolutely no reason for a customer of HECO not to go off grid.

Posted in HECO

MPD: Fairer for officers. More tranparent for public

Picking a new Maui chief of police is an opportunity for improvement – both inside and outside the department.  Response to our last article has been informative but unfortunately off the record.  So this will serve more as an opinion piece expressing the consensus of these off-the-record contacts.

Making MPD a better place to work:

Recurring themes are sexual harassment within the department, bullying and reprisals against officers who speak out on these.  What steps can be taken to make MPD a more equitable and welcoming place to work?

Responsibility for taking proactive steps rests with the Chief.  Each candidate for the position should explain his or her plan for ending bullying, harassment and reprisals.  Obviously the old way is not working.  Will continuing the old administration fix this problem?

MPD personnel are prohibited from speaking directly to journalists.  Every contact must go up the chain of command and be approved by the Chief.  This is a wise policy when it comes to active cases.  Investigative strategy requires withholding some information.  But when the issue at hand is the treatment of MPD employees, this serves to squash any investigation into complaints and thus any resolution of the problems that appear to be widespread in the department.

The Police Commission is tasked with oversight but very little has been disclosed regarding disciplinary action.  What programs  the commission instituted to make sure that MPD operates in an equitable fashion?  None to date.  Perhaps an ombudsman?  Perhaps more public transparency in disciplinary actions in order to make sure they aren’t retaliatory?  Better oversight must come from the top and candidates should  asked to explain their plans prior to be chosen.

Making MPD more transparent to the public:

The Police Commission meets in what appears to be a bunker (but is actually the Chief’s meeting room.)  For the public to attend meetings, they have to go through security and sit in a windowless room deep within the police station, outnumbered by the police.  The Commission, unlike the City Council, has no binders of information available for press and public to understand agenda background.  In fact, there seems to be a concerted effort to discourage public participation and close ranks against the media.

It takes a determined citizen to to even get in the room so it’s not surprising that few members of the public attend the monthly commission meetings.  What will the commission and the new chief do to make the meetings more accessible?

Perhaps the commission doesn’t realize that they are in charge and can schedule meetings in one of the county buildings more welcoming to public participation.  So first off, they need to schedule the meetings in an open and more easily accessible location outside of the police station.

The public is entitled to know more about the candidates qualifications There is still time to post this information on line prior to the executive session interviews.

The commission needs to start being inquisitive and exercising oversight.

The Commission is responsible to the public and acts as the public’s watchdog over the police department.  To date, they have not done this job with much enthusiasm.  This is not surprising given the isolation from the public in which they operate.

Choosing a Chief who will work with media

MPD has an undeserved reputation for bungling some investigations which stems more from a lack of effective public communication than reality.  The new chief should welcome and use opportunities to interact with the media and the public.  An example of a lost opportunity was the February 2014 Kihei Community Association meeting which, when MPD heard the public would attend to demand answers in the  Carly Scott case, precipitated a hastily scheduled press conference.

The Chief could have been proactive and scheduled this long before.  That would have changed public perception and built confidence. The belated press conference did do this and serves an example that should be followed more often (and earlier.)

It is ironic that one of the most frequently used method of communicating emergency information on Maui is a Facebook page started by Neldon Mamuad who was subject to disciplinary action for creating the page and thereby “harassing” a police officer. (The County later settled the suit in Mamuad’s favor.)  Which brings us to…

MPD should stop getting the County sued over the First Amendment

The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals decision affirmed that citizens can video police so MPD are fully aware that they must stop arresting citizens (especially reporters) for videoing them.

Twice the Court has found MPD to be violating First Amendment rights, first by preventing peace activists from holding signs on the sidewalk, and second by preventing a citizen from handing out religious pamphlets on the sidewalk.

Whoever is chosen as chief should understand that the U.S. Constitution is the highest document and that the department should protect First Amendment expression rather than repressing it.  To be fair, the police have done an excellent job with the many thousands on the “March Against Monsanto” protests and others.  So the new chief should continue this low-key policing of demonstrations.

Stop the “bunker” mentality

Earlier reference was made to the “bunker” in which the Police Commission meets. Years ago when Maui was less populous, most people had friends on the police force.  There was an easy give and take and friendly relations between citizens and officers.  With the influx of new residents, many of whom don’t immerse themselves in local cultural and social events, we’re seeing the number of people without ties to our MPD officers grow.  Thankfully, we’re not a Ferguson where the department appears completely out of touch with the citizens.  Our department is still comprised of our friends and neighbors.

The new chief needs to take steps now to reach out to the public and make sure the entire population feels affinity with the department.  That means more public events that bring officers and citizens together in a welcoming manner.

What a lost opportunity:  We built the new Kihei substation but where’s the public invitation to tour?

With more frequent and friendly opportunities for public-police contact, the us-against-them bunker mentality will dissipate.  The new chief should be willing to create these opportunities.

Posted in MPD

ACLU files suit to prevent certification of election

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Big Island residents Frances and Merrill Lathers, Cassandra Wylie, Brad L. Coffel, Kathleen Walker, and Andrew Leo alleging that the State Office of Elections should have allowed two other precincts (04-03 and 04-04) the opportunity to vote at a later time as they did with precincts 04-01 and 04-02.

The first thing that jumps to mind is that Colleen Hanabusa, having made the political calculation that filing to contest the election results would make her even more unpopular, is using these folks as a front to accomplish the same thing.

This does not appear to be the case. Read more ›

Posted in Colleen Hanabusa

Hanabusa finally conceeds…sort of

Reprinted from DailyKos

The Star Advertiser is reporting that Colleen Hanabusa will not contest the election results that showed Sen. Brian Schatz winning by just over 1,700 votes.  However, there’s no party unity.  No graciousness towards her opponent.  Just a whiny complaint.

“A big Mahalo to our volunteers and supporters for your hard work, sacrifice and most importantly, for your trust,” Hanabusa said in a statement. “We would not have gotten as close as we did without the love and Aloha you poured into our campaign. I will forever be humbled and inspired by your support.””Though I will not be challenging the results of this election, I remain very concerned about the public’s confidence and trust in our election process. I ask former colleagues and friends in the Hawaii State Legislature to explore what is necessary to ensure the people that their vote truly counts. I heard from many who feel strongly that they were disenfranchised from the voting process this election and I stand ready to support any collaborative effort to have those voices heard.”

“It is time for me to finish my work in the Congress and reflect on the last 16 years of my life in public office. I always wanted to give back and make things better for the people of Hawaii by creating opportunities for the next generation to thrive. I can move on from this election knowing I listened to the people and fought hard for the right to represent them, honorably.”

Hanabusa’s ambition led her to abandon her HI-01 House seat to primary senator Brian Schatz.  Mark Takai (D) (endorsed by the Progressive Caucus, Vote Vets and the Sierra Club) will be facing Republican Mark Djou (R) in the general for Hanabusa’s old seat.

Posted in Colleen Hanabusa Tagged with:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Calls For Demilitarizing Police

tulsi2013Honolulu - Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today called for demilitarizing of American police.

“The increasing use of military equipment, weapons, and tactics against our own citizens is unacceptable and must stop.”

said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a veteran of two tours of duty in the Middle East and a captain in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard.

“The military-style response of the Ferguson, Missouri police is but the latest of numerous such incidents across America.”

Read more ›

Posted in Police state

MPD – A Chance for Change Being Bungled

Maui Police Department, despite many outstanding officers, has a past of bad administration that has gotten the department in hot water with the courts. It looks like the Police Commission has no taste for changing this.

When Chief Gary Yabuta retired  July 30, 2014, residents were optimistic that the Police Commission would appoint an educated chief dedicated to cleaning up the corruption in the department.  Corruption and bad judgement that includes: Read more ›

Posted in MPD

Ferguson causes Hawai’i to rethink arming police with military weapons

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga) plans to introduce a bill to stop militarizing police departments around the country with surplus Pentagon equipment.  Hawai’i folks have started a petition asking Rep Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hi) to sign on. Read more ›

Posted in Police state

Hanabusa loses injunction

Reprinted from DailyKos

According to Hawaii News Now, Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura has denied Colleen Hanabusa’s request to delay the last two Hawaii precincts from voting tomorrow (Friday Aug 15,2014):

Hanabusa trails U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz by 1,635 in the race for the remainder of the term of the late U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye. In the other two Puna precincts where voting went ahead last Saturday, Schatz garnered about 10 percent more of the vote than Hanabusa.

Hanabusa winning with the Puna vote is mathematically unlikely.  Her best showing in her home town precinct was 63% of the vote.  She’d have to get more than that if all 8,000+ voters showed up.  Given the 37% turn-out in neighboring precincts, she’d have to get about 80% of likely voters to pull ahead of Senator Brian Schatz.

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) actually working and refusing to grant interviews vs challenger Colleen Hanabusa (conserva-dem) using Puna's misfortune as a campaign photo op.

Senator Brian Schatz helping Hurricane victims vs Colleen Hanabusa using them as a photo op
Posted in Colleen Hanabusa

Hanabusa files to stop Friday’s Puna vote

Read more ›

Posted in Colleen Hanabusa

Donna Mercado Kim Fakes Environmentalism

After a dismal performance in the July 23 KITV debate where CD1 hopeful, Donna Mercado Kim, told us that the solution to improving the economy is to remove regulations (a statement that made both environmentalists and labor supporters cringe) and a stunningly uninformed interview with the Hawaii Independent, Kim must have felt she needed to improve her image. Read more ›

Posted in Deceptive Political Ads, Mark Takai

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