This is a response to MECO’s announcement, which you can read by clicking here.
Earlier this week Maui Electric (MECO) announced they had signed a Power Purchase Agreement with Molokai New Energy Partners which is a project entity for Half Moon Ventures (HMV). The release was somewhat misleading as it failed to mention Half Moon Ventures who is the company that has been working on this project.
Although there is a lot of talk from HMV and MECO on ‘a community process’ for this project, we are yet to see a genuine community process on our island. A more exact definition of community-owned renewable energy or community energy (CE) refers to projects where a community group initiates, develops, operates and/or benefits from a renewable energy resource or energy efficiency initiative. There are many innovative models we can use for a more fairer distribution of the benefits from our clean energy transition. However, it needs to come from a process that has broad participation from the community of Molokai.
Although this project will help Molokai reach 100% renewable energy generation, it is unlikely to result in cheaper electricity or other community focused flow on benefits. It does not meet the standards of a CE project, in regards to process, community engagement, community ownership or benefit sharing.
The media statement of electricity charges to be reduced to 17c per kWh excludes the other relevant and urgent issue – that MECO has opened a Docket for a rate increase of 9% for Maui, Molokai, and Lanai.
Potential rate savings for the community may be offset by this very large increase to cover infrastructure upgrades the utility says it needs to allow the county to meet the goal of 100% renewables by 2045. There was a hearing on Tuesday where the PUC and the Consumer Advocate came to listen to testimony on the rate increase. Only three people testified: Sharon Suzuki, (in favor) Dean Nishima (neutral) and Fred Redell the County of Maui Energy Commissioner (opposed). The process is a long one and written testimony will also be accepted including any signed petitions our community choses to include. However, it is disappointing that this was not well communicated through community channels in Molokai at this early stage.
This is a confusing, convoluted and non-transparent process as MECO continues to insist on an outdated business model for our local energy supply. As a community we need transparency about what this model will genuinely deliver, then have a say on if that is acceptable, and an opportunity to present community ideas on how to enhance it.
Like me, I’m sure the broader Molokai community must feel overwhelmed. It can be too easy to fall into the “whatever, no matter to me” category. But it does matter. This should be an exciting transition, to a more aligned energy source, however, it must be tailored to our community.
We, the Molokai community, can use our collective power to create the type of structure, that can democratize energy and make it affordable and accessible for every one of our Molokai Ohana – from Keiki to Kupuna. This will be the true measure of our success. To do this we must have a united voice for a clear model that we want to see embedded into the proposed energy projects for Molokai.
To this end Sust `aina ble Molokai is hosting a meeting on Feb 19th with international visitors Søren Hermansen (Denmark), Taryn Lane (Australia) and Shota Furuya (Japan). All are from small, rural communities who have achieved community ownership and benefit sharing models to serve their communities. They will be here to share their stories and help interested Molokai community members to learn from their experiences so that we can use their lessons to shape our new narrative of what we want to see for a Molokai Community Energy Future that is uniquely ours. These local community organizers have made positive changes in their communities as well as more broadly across their countries and we are all looking forward to a passionate and engaged conversation!
Our process is transparent, we have made it an open meeting and we are inviting many other stakeholders have been including MECO, HMV, County of Maui. We need as many people as possible to come listen, learn, and find positive solutions to the risks we are facing if we don’t have a united voice. It is through this type of learning and meeting we can identify goals, strategies and timelines as a community to drive our island’s energy future. We shouldn’t just accept processes and projects imposed from commercial interests that aren’t meeting our needs as we head towards our goal of becoming a 100% resilient island.