Environmental group Friends of Lana'i wants the state to require that Hawaiian Electric Co. complete a long-range statewide energy plan before being allowed to seek bids for an undersea cable developer and other large renewable projects.
The group filed its request this week with the Public Utilities Commission. Other community and environmental groups joined the effort, including Life of the Land and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., representing residents on Lanai and Molokai.
The PUC last year required HECO to seek new bids for at least 200 megawatts of renewable energy after First Wind failed to secure land rights for a proposed wind farm on Molokai.
The utility is expected to file a final Request for Proposal (RFP) with the commission in the coming months for that 200 megawatts. That amount of energy would be equivalent to about seven times the amount generated at the Kaheawa wind farm above Maalaea. Qualifying projects can be sited on any island that can reach Oahu via an undersea cable.
At the same time, the PUC in March initiated its so-called Integrated Resource Planning process for HECO and its subsidiaries Maui Electric Co. and Hawaii Electric Light Co. The overall goal, according to the PUC, is to develop an action plan for the next two decades to govern how the utilities will reliably and cost-effectively meet the energy needs of customers as well as the energy goals of the state.
Once HECO's portion of the plan is complete, which is expected to take up to a year, the PUC will require plans for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and The Gas Co.
Friends of Lana'i said the PUC is working "backwards" by allowing HECO to proceed with large-scale renewable energy bids before the long-range action plan is completed.
"It seems to be kind of crazy to find an (undersea) cable operator before you have the opportunity to do an overall plan," Friends of Lana'i spokesman Robin Kaye said. "The RFP is a rush for a premature solution that HECO keeps pushing. We have an opportunity to take a 3,000-foot look at this energy policy and how the utility plans to address it. Let's do it in order."
A HECO spokesman said that the utility will file a response with the PUC to the Friends of Lana'i's motion and defended the utility's request for bids.
"We believe this request for proposals is critical to reducing the impact of oil prices on our customers," HECO spokesman Darren Pai said.
The PUC did not return a call seeking comment Wed-nesday.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.