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Public Utilities Commission stops Honua Ola Bioenergy project on Hawaiʻi Island

1 HonuaOla Pano.jpg
Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi
Hū Honua Bioenergy, also known as Honua Ola, has been seeking approval for its 21.5 megawatt biomass plant in Pepeʻekeo from the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission since 2018.

The state Public Utilities Commission on Monday stopped a wood-burning power plant planned for the Big Island.

In a 2-1 vote, the commission rejected a power purchase agreement between Honua Ola Bioenergy and the Hawaiʻi Electric Light Company, or Hawaiian Electric.

The company wanted to complete and bring online a wood-burning power facility previously known as Hu Honua.

In a 164-page decision, the PUC wrote that “the Commission is not convinced that the Project will result in long-term environmental benefits for Hawaiʻi Island.”

The decision continued “as such, the Commission is concerned that reliance on energy produced at the Project could result in long-term environmental and public health costs.”

The PUC also raised questions about potential high costs to ratepayers, partially because the electricity produced might take the place of renewable resources which would also be cheaper.

Henry Curtis, executive director of the advocacy group Life of the Land, applauded the decision.

The long-time opponent said the project would increase electric rates and greenhouse gas emissions, and “pose a threat to Hawaiʻi’s fragile environment.”

Honua Ola Bioenergy released a statement saying the company is “disappointed” with the PUC decision — adding that “it results in the continued use of costly, dirty fossil fuels over firm renewable energy to power Hawaii Island.”

President Warren Lee said the company is “determining our legal options for moving forward, including a motion for reconsideration with the PUC and if necessary the filing of an appeal with the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court.”

Honua Ola has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into transforming the old sugar mill in Pepeʻekeo into a 21.5-megawatt biomass plant.

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