Maui residents will have an opportunity tonight to weigh in on a key environmental document the U.S. Department of Energy and state officials plan to draft to help meet the ambitious goals of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.
A public "scoping" meeting will be held from 5:30 to 9 tonight at Pomaikai Elementary School in Kahului on a "programmatic" environmental impact statement that will cover various renewable energy and energy-saving projects statewide.
Meetings will be held from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lanai High & Elementary School and from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Mitchell Pauole Center on Molokai.
The Energy Department in 2010 started the process for a programmatic EIS that would focus only on plans to develop wind farms on Maui, Molokai and Lanai and to lay an undersea cable to send the power to Oahu.
Based in part on feedback from public scoping meetings on that plan, the department has revised and expanded the scope of the so-called PEIS to include additional clean energy categories.
At some of those meetings, which were held in February 2011, the public questioned why wind energy was the only alternative that would be studied.
"Commenters expressed concern that the Department of Energy and the state would not analyze energy efficiency measures, distributed renewable energy, or the full range of potential renewable energy technologies," the department said in its amended notice. "Commenters also expressed concern about the construction of interisland electricity transmission connections and cables, the potential disparity of impacts on the islands that could host wind development projects versus those that would use the electricity, and potential impacts to cultural resources."
In response, the amended notice now states: "The Hawaii Clean Energy PEIS will analyze, at a programmatic level, the potential environmental impacts of clean energy activities and technologies in the following clean energy categories: Energy Efficiency, Distributed Renewables, Utility-Scale Renewables, Alternative Transportation Fuels and Modes, and Electrical Transmission and Distribution."
The study will evaluate "the full range of potential environmental, including cultural and socioeconomic, impacts associated with implementing clean energy activities and technologies on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu."
The notice stressed that the PEIS "will not eliminate the need for project-specific environmental review of individual projects or activities that may be eligible for funding or other support by the Department of Energy."
The department said the need for the study stems from a 2008 agreement with the state to partner "to transform the way in which energy efficiency and renewable energy resources are planned and used in (Hawaii)."
"The Department of Energy's purpose and need (for the PEIS) is to support the state in its effort to meet 70 percent of the state's energy needs by 2030," the notice said. It also is expected to help prioritize future federal funding decisions.
At the scoping meetings, the public will be able to ask questions, view exhibits on potential clean energy approaches, submit comments and request a copy of the draft PEIS when it becomes available.
The department said it plans to issue a draft PEIS in 2013 and a final document in 2014.
For more information about the study and a schedule of the public meetings, visit hawaiicleanenergypeis.com.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at email@example.com.