Friday, July 13, 2007

[PB] Hawaiian Electric biofuel plan is flawed, groups say


By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

Environmental groups are trying to convince Hawaiian Electric and the
state to develop stricter rules for acquiring environmentally
sustainable biofuels.

Hawaiian Electric is working on a set of guidelines — still not in final
form — to guide its purchase of palm oil for use as fuel in a
110-megawatt biofuel generating plant at Campbell Industrial Park. The
plant is to be on line during 2009.

Five environmental and Hawaiian organizations yesterday presented an
analysis of the proposed Hawaiian Electric guidelines to the utility,
the Public Utilities Commission and the state Department of Business,
Economic Development and Tourism.

The five include Life of the Land, Kahea, 'Ilio'ulaokalani, Sierra Club
and Environmental Defense Hawai'i. The state agency was included because
it must certify that Hawaiian Electric's fuel purchases meet
sustainability standards.

Life of the Land director Henry Curtis said that the utility's decision
to use palm oil as a fuel in the generator is flawed, largely because
there is so little palm oil available on the world market that is
developed without destruction of native forests or displacement of
native peoples. Both Hawaiian Electric and environmental groups agree
that the utility would quickly become the world's largest single utility
purchaser of biofuel.

Curtis said that Hawaiian Electric's proposed guidelines allow oil palm
fuel that is not environmentally sustainable to be purchased if the
grower is moving toward meeting sustainability benchmarks. That and
other parts of the plan fail to meet the requirements of an
international panel that worked with extensive industry participation,
Curtis said.

"HECO standards are far weaker than the international standards
negotiated over several years through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm
Oil process," the analysis says.

Hawaiian Electric spokesman Peter Rosegg said that the utility, with the
assistance of its partner the Natural Resources Defense Council, has
completed several public meetings across the state and will be amending
the proposed guidelines, but may not initially bring them into full
compliance with the roundtable's proposals.

"You have to start somewhere and move forward," he said.

The utility's plan is to move quickly toward purchasing more and more
sustainably produced palm oil, and it hopes its financial clout will
help make more and more sustainable fuel available, Rosegg said.

"We're not going to take somebody's word for it. We're going to want to
see a timeline and progress. We will have auditors independently
observing. We will have the NRDC looking over our shoulder.

"We have very high incentives to do this in the right way," Rosegg said.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts:

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