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Anaergia’s MANA Project Questioned in The Maui News

Original Article at: http://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2018/01/sewage-plant-project-would-end-landfill-green-waste-composting/

 

Sewage plant project would end landfill green waste composting

Green waste is dumped off at EKO System's drop-off at the Central Maui Landfill in this photo taken in February 2016. A proposed renewable energy project at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility would put the 23-year-old composting facility out of business, diverting the sewage sludge that is a necessary component in EKO's composing process. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Green waste is dumped off at EKO System’s drop-off at the Central Maui Landfill in this photo taken in February 2016. A proposed renewable energy project at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility would put the 23-year-old composting facility out of business, diverting the sewage sludge that is a necessary component in EKO’s composing process. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAHULUI — Maui EKO Systems, which has processed the island’s green waste and county sewage sludge into compost for nearly 23 years, could be put out of business as early as the end of next year because of a proposed renewable energy project at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility.

The closure stands as one future impact among several other potential problems residents voiced during a community meeting focused on the project led by Maui All Natural Alternative, an Anaergia Services company, on Wednesday at Kahului Elementary School.

“I think we left the meeting with more questions than answers,” Sierra Club Maui coordinator Adriane Raff Corwin said Thursday. “They didn’t give many specifics at all, so we’ll be following up. But I think last night’s meeting illustrated the community has a huge amount of concerns and questions that aren’t being answered.”

Officials with the energy company and county Department of Environmental Management provided a brief presentation and answered questions during their first public meeting on the project. An environmental impact statement is nearly completed, and a final draft is expected later this year.

“No project I’ve ever seen in my 27 years with the county is perfect, but I think this consists of everything we’re looking for,” Environmental Management Department Director Stewart Stant told the crowd of about 40 people.

Stewart Stant

Stewart Stant

The project calls for installation of an anaerobic digester to produce methane gas from energy crops grown on former Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. lands. The natural gas would be refined on-site and fuel a combined heat-and-power engine to generate electricity for the sewage treatment plant.

Waste heat from the plant’s engine would dry biosolids, or digested sewage sludge, produced by the plant. The anaerobic digester would be located on the west side of an existing aerobic blower building.

The treatment plant is next to the ocean on Amala Place in Kahului. The Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary is inland of the sewage treatment plant, and Kanaha Beach Park and Kahului Airport are located to the east.

Anaergia and county officials said the renewable energy project would provide 4.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year and dry the county’s 24,000 tons of biosolids annually. The biosolids would be treated and returned to the county to possibly be used as fertilizer for parks, including the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course.

The energy company would develop the project at no upfront construction cost to the county and charge the county 29 cents kWh as part of a 20-year contract.

Residents and environmental watchdog groups took issue with the charge per kilowatt hour, which is more than double what Maui Electric Co. pays wind farms and for fossil-fuel generated power.

Doug McLeod, vice president of the Maui Tomorrow Foundation, said the price is high because the county advertised the project as “gas turbine to dry sludge,” which solicited just one bid from Anaergia. He added that there seemed to be “a lot of very strange aspects” in the deal that he believed was not the most cost-effective for taxpayers or the safest for the environment.

“When you look at this price 29 cents that is well more than double the current market price for solar power,” McLeod said Thursday. “It would seem to be a lot more than other renewable options, but we don’t know that because the county didn’t ask” for alternatives.

McLeod, who also runs an energy consulting firm and is the former county energy commissioner, said many solar companies did not bother to meet with the county to discuss the project because of the clear restrictive language that favored Anaergia. He believed only Pacific Biodiesel showed interest.

Raff Corwin also questioned why the county did not seek separate solutions for disposing of biosolids and producing energy. She wondered why the treatment plant proposal needed to combine both aspects into one and was concerned about air quality and odors produced by the plant.

“I still haven’t gotten a clear answer as to why these two needs had to be combined,” she said. “It sounds like we’re going to have a huge amount of dry sludge and green waste no longer turned into composting material.”

In 2014, Anaergia, a California-based company, signed a separate 20-year contract with Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration to build a waste conversion facility at the Central Maui Landfill.

Anaergia and county officials acknowledged that the wastewater treatment plant waste-to-energy project would be related to the landfill project because it would provide dried sludge for the landfill waste conversion project. But they maintained the contracts for the projects were separate.

McLeod said he is skeptical of the landfill waste-conversion facility, which has yet to have an EIS preparation notice published. Anaergia had previously tried to build an energy plant using wastewater in 2015 but was shot down by the Public Utilities Commission.

“These contracts people think they’re free with minimal upfront cost, but they will cost the county money in the end,” McLeod said. “There’s obviously a lost opportunity.”

As for EKO, the company’s current contract with the county ends in June, but the two sides will likely extend until the end of 2019, plant manager Rubens Fonseca said Thursday. The company has 20 workers.

The composting operation was established to extend the life of the landfill by diverting green waste and sludge.

“I hate to see this product that has been offered to landscapers and farmers here almost 23 years going to be gone,” he said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@maui news.com.

Sierra Club supports Maui’s electric utility recommendations

Sierra Club Supports Maui County’s Push for a New Utility Model

Honolulu, Hawai‘i — Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa announced today that the county’s research shows that a new utility model, including a neutral “independent system operator” or cooperative ownership, would improve service, reduce rates, and promote clean energy.

Marti Townsend, Director for the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i said:

“We agree with the conclusions of Maui County’s study, that the people of Maui should seek a new electric utility model, which may include pursuing public ownership of the utility.

Here on the clean energy leading edge in Hawai`i, large investor-owned utilities are dinosaurs.  It makes more sense for our environment and our economy to manage our electrical grid as a shared resource and encourage as much competition as possible to give ratepayers what they want: clean, cheap energy.

The outcome of Maui’s study bodes well for efforts in other counties to explore alternative utility ownership, including the study of Honolulu’s options for public ownership proposed on Tuesday by Honolulu Council Chairman Ernie Martin, and the work of Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative on the Big Island to create a utility cooperative.”

Link to Maui Report: http://www.co.maui.hi.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=7221

FACE Petition & Meeting on Lifting PV Cap

Many of you are already leaders in helping make the shift to a more sustainable future for Maui.  I am writing to invite you to a meeting FACE is holding this Friday (Mar 7) 5pm at Catholic Charities in Kahului to plan a response to both the slow connection rate for future solar installations, as well as the proposed surcharges for existing solar users. We will be joined by the Sierra Club and others who have been working on this issue for some time.

The reason for holding this meeting now is the pressing need for a reaction during the month of March to both a series of bills and Public Utility Commission proposals which are aimed at hindering the spread of solar, as well as a positive bill moving through the House and Senate.  The effort to address this specific problem will be time limited and will need a quicker than normal reaction from our community.

We are considering a sign waving and a series of legislative meetings over the next month.  Please come if you can, and email me with questions or if you need directions.

Mahalo for signing this petition, and please pass it on to your friends and family!
http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/tell-heco-put-your-energy

Sierra Club calls HECO on its campaign against solar

HEI Announces Black is White
Hawaiian Electric Attempts to Obscure Solar Slowdown

HONOLULU, HI – Installations of residential rooftop photovoltaic systems dropped significantly in the last quarter of 2013. Yet, in an effort to disguise its campaign to kill customers’ rights to install rooftop solar panels and save themselves thousands of dollars on their electric bills, the Hawaiian Electric companies (“HECO”) claimed yesterday that, “Solar photovoltaic installations in Hawai‘i continued growing at a strong pace in 2013.” HECO’s senior vice president for customer service, Jim Alberts, went so far as to say, “We remain committed to a strong, sustainable solar industry in Hawaii. We continue to approve new solar systems for interconnection daily.”

“This is perverse,” said Robert Harris, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. “Ever since HECO started eliminating access to the grid, the permits for photovoltaic projects issued on Oahu in December fell to 1,140 from 1,925 issued in the same month of 2012. In November 1,040 permits were issued, a 48 percent drop from the 1,996 permits one year earlier. In October 1,246 permits were issued, down 49 percent from a high of 2,433 a year earlier. How does this constitute strong growth?”

Just days before HECO’s press release, the state’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism announced that the trend is continuing in 2014 with year?to?date residential rooftop solar permits down to 340 in the first three weeks of January, a “32.1 percent decrease from the previous year.”

“HECO is afraid its outdated business model and decades of comfortable state-guaranteed profits are under assault,” Harris said. “So last September it slammed the brakes with an arbitrary claim that its circuits are saturated with rooftop solar. This fact — if true — should have been foreseen and prepared for. HECO claims to support solar, but its actions do not reflect its words.”

Last year, the Hawaii State Legislature passed Act 37, which allows HECO to receive greater rates of return for investments in a modern smart, grid and efforts that allow greater renewable energy penetration. This year, two bills (HB 1943 and SB 2656) were introduced that call on the utility to build a smart modern grid, capable of absorbing the power that all individual homeowners and renters of all income levels can generate on their roofs. “We hope this will be an occasion where HECO’s words and actions will match. HECO should support these legislative efforts. It’s an opportunity for HECO to better service its customers as well as grow its profits.”

[Pau]

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Sierra Club of Hawaii

Founded in 1968, the Sierra Club of Hawaii is the state’s largest and most active grassroots environmental organization. The Club actively promotes reducing the impacts of global climate change by encouraging the development of clean renewable energy, reducing the use of fossil fuels, and ensuring our fragile native habitat is protected from harm. www.sierraclubhawaii.org

Sierra Club, Earthjustice File Legal Challenge to Protect Solar Tax Credit in Hawai‘i

State Tax Proposal Would Slam the Brakes on Solar Energy, Hawai‘i Jobs

HONOLULU – Today, the Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, filed a legal challenge in state circuit court to the Hawai‘i Department of Taxation’s recent decision to cut back on tax credits for residents and businesses that install solar energy systems. The Department’s new interpretation of the solar credit – which was announced November 9, 2012 and goes into effect January 1, 2013 – will drastically reduce the availability of the Hawai‘i renewable energy tax credit for solar photovoltaic systems and threatens Hawai‘i’s progress in promoting renewable energy and in weaning itself off fossil fuels.

Sierra Club Hawai‘i Chapter Director Robert D. Harris said, “Since the Department announced it was cutting support for solar energy systems, we’ve heard from hundreds of our members across the state who say they will no longer be able to afford to install solar panels on their roofs. We’ve also heard of investors pulling out of several large-scale commercial projects because the reduced credit makes the projects unviable. This goes completely against what the Legislature tried to accomplish in enacting and expanding the solar tax credit.”

The legal challenge says the Department’s new rule conflicts with the law’s aim of encouraging widespread adoption of residential and commercial solar energy systems, which are vital for Hawai‘i to reach its goal of 40% of its energy coming from locally generated, renewable sources by 2030.

Hawai‘i has a strong reason to encourage a shift to renewable energy, especially rooftop solar energy systems. Historically, Hawai‘i has relied on power from imported oil and coal for nearly all of its energy needs, at great expense to homeowners and businesses alike. Bathed in sun year round, Hawai‘i is well positioned to being the first state to shed its dependence on dirty, increasingly expensive fossil fuels.

“The Administration is wrongly slamming the brakes on one of the few success stories in achieving Hawai‘i’s clean energy goals,” said Harris. The Department’s new interpretation would slash the average tax credit to homeowners and businesses that install solar energy systems by about half. It also threatens the future of thousands of solar energy workers in one of Hawai‘i’s strongest growth sectors.

“By suddenly and dramatically clamping down on the solar tax credit, the Department is damaging a major engine of economic growth,” said economist Thomas Loudat. “The solar industry accounts for over 15 percent of all construction expenditures in the state. When those companies start going belly up because folks can’t afford to install solar systems, we’re going to have a lot of unemployed workers, which is going to impose huge costs on Hawai‘i’s taxpayers.”

“Thousands of jobs like mine are at stake,” said Steve Mazur, a solar energy employee and Sierra Club member. “We don’t want to see companies destroyed and livelihoods threatened because Governor Abercrombie simply wasn’t willing to discuss a rational updating of the tax code.”

Among the hardest hit from the rule change are lower-income groups, including many local households that cannot afford to install solar systems without an adequate credit.

“We’ve just gotten to the point where the cost has come down enough for the less well-off to be able to afford or lease solar panels,” said economist Thomas Loudat. “By dramatically cutting the tax credit, the Department of Taxation is jacking the price back up, so that the average Hawai‘i resident is less likely to enjoy the benefits of solar. Those least able to afford it are going to be forced to pay for electricity generated from increasingly expensive fossil fuels.”

The Department changed its interpretation of the solar credit after asking the State Legislature to pass a similar reduction to the credit last session, which the Legislature refused to do.

“In our democracy, the Legislature makes clean energy policy, not the Department of Taxation,” Earthjustice attorney David Henkin said. “If the Department thinks the solar credit law should be changed, it can go to the Legislature and make its case, like everyone else. Until then, its job is to implement the law, not unilaterally – and illegally – change it.”

Hawai`i Chapter of the Sierra Club

Founded in 1968, the Hawai`i Chapter of the Sierra Club is the state’s largest and most active grassroots environmental organization. The Club actively promotes reducing the impacts of global climate change by encouraging the development of clean renewable energy, reducing the use of fossil fuels, and ensuring our fragile native habitat is protected from harm. www.sierraclubhawaii.com

Earthjustice
Earthjustice is the nation’s leading non-profit environmental law firm. The Mid-Pacific Office opened in Honolulu in 1988 and represents environmental, Native Hawaiian, and community organizations. Earthjustice is the only non-profit environmental law firm in Hawai‘i and the Mid-Pacific and does not charge clients for its services. For more information, visit www.earthjustice.org.

[Pau]

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Governor Announces Drastic Cuts to Solar

State Tax Proposal Would Slam the Brakes on Solar Energy, Jobs in Hawai`i

Sierra Club, Earthjustice call on administration to change course

HONOLULU, HAWAII – Today, Governor Neil Abercrombie announced a drastic, potentially devastating cut to the Hawai`i’s successful tax credit for solar energy. The proposal would reduce by approximately 50 percent the tax credit for homeowners and businesses that install solar energy systems. The solar industry is one of Hawai`i’s strongest growth sectors, and the state’s proposal threatens the future of thousands of workers and jeopardizes recent progress in weaning Hawai`i off dirty, imported fossil fuels.

“The governor should not slam the breaks on solar energy in Hawai`i,” said Sierra Club Hawai`i Chapter Director Robert D. Harris. “The solar industry has been a tremendous success story in our efforts to achieve a clean energy future. A sudden, extreme reduction in the tax credits for residents trying to save money on their electric bills is misguided. It sends the signal that this administration no longer supports aggressive renewable energy adoption in Hawai`i.”
The Abercrombie administration has invoked the Department of Taxation’s authority to issue temporary rules (rules in effect for up to 18 months). The new rules would limit the solar tax credit to $5,000 for the average residential solar power system, effectively cutting the current 35 percent credit in half. This sudden reduction would put solar out of the reach of many families and business owners. The state made the proposal without giving the public and stakeholders the opportunity to weigh in.
“Less well-off groups are currently the most significant installers of solar technology, as opposed to historically, when more affluent groups were installing these systems,” said economist Thomas Loudat. “By dramatically cutting the tax credit, the Department of Taxation’s imposed price increase will make it more expensive for these local households who will not install solar systems and enjoy their benefits. Such households will to continue to purchase electricity generated from increasingly expensive and dirty fossil fuels and not be part of achieving the State’s clean, renewable energy goals.”

“We’ve just gotten to the point where the cost has come down enough for the less well-off to be able to afford or lease solar panels,” said Harris. “This will hurt folks who are trying to save money, while being green.”
The legislature refused to pass a similar reduction to the solar credit last session.
“Having failed to convince the legislature to slash the solar tax credit, the administration is attempting an end-run by issuing — without public input or process — draconian rules,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. “The legislature makes clean energy policy, not the Department of Taxation. These rules are blatantly illegal.”
Governor Abercrombie’s hasty proposal to slash the renewable tax credit would jeopardize Hawai`i’s economy and threaten the state’s status as a leader on solar.
“By suddenly and dramatically clamping down on the solar tax credit, the administration will damage a significant engine of economic growth,” said economist Thomas Loudat. “The solar industry accounts for over 15 percent of all construction expenditures in the state.  A lower tax credit means fewer solar system installations which will lead to local company closures, unemployed workers and fiscal costs in the form of unemployment insurance.”
The Abercrombie administration deliberately refused to work with stakeholders in drafting the temporary rules.
“We and other clean energy stakeholders repeatedly offered to work with the administration, but were rebuffed,” said Harris. “Senator Mike Gabbard even formed a working group to explore possible legislative revisions and carefully craft sound policy, but Governor Abercrombie and his staff were unwilling to hold a public dialogue on one of the state’s key renewable energy programs.”
“Thousands of jobs like mine are at stake,” said Steve Mazur, a solar energy employee and Sierra Club member. “We don’t want to see companies destroyed and livelihoods threatened because Governor Abercrombie simply wasn’t willing to discuss a rational updating of the tax code.”