Public Utilities Commission Must Address Party`s Solicitation of Comment Letters

Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission, Photo by Henry Curtis Posted on August 25, 2021
Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission, Photo by Henry Curtis Posted on August 25, 2021

Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission | August 25, 2021

By Henry Curtis

Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc. (HECO), Maui Electric Company Ltd. (MECO) and Hawai’i Electric Light Company, Inc. (HELCO), launched a request for proposal (RFP) process for renewable energy projects for Oahu, Maui, and Hawai’i Island.

Kahana Solar submitted a proposal to MECO on dated November 5, 2019, for a 20MW photovoltaic system paired with a battery energy storage system.

The proposed Project site is on land, formerly dedicated to growing pineapple until 2009, owned by Maui Land and Pineapple (MLP). It is located 1.4 miles mauka from the Kapalua Airport in Napili-Honokowai, Maui.

MECO selected the Kahana Solar project on May 8, 2020, and subsequently signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

MECO filed the PPA with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on September 15, 2020, docket no. 2020-0142.

Attorney Douglas Codiga, with the law firm of Schlack Ito LLLC, represents Kahana Solar.

The Consumer Advocate is by law, a party in every PUC proceeding. Kahana Solar and the West Maui Preservation Association filed motions to intervene in the proceeding.

West Maui Preservation Association (WMPA) is represented by former PUC attorney Ryan Hurley and attorney Bianca Isaki.

The PUC approved both interventions and asserted that the review process would adhere to contested case procedures, consistent with HRS Chapter 91.

WMPA filed a motion to strike support letters filed outside of the contested case proceeding rules.

Skog Rasmussen LLC was hired by Kahana Solar to handle community outreach.

Kahana Solar admitted to giving community members ‘‘a $ 100 gift card to a locally owned grocery store as a thank you for their participation” as well as “$ 15 gift card to Island Grocery, as a thank you for coming back to campus to participate.”

Kahana Solar could have chosen to submit letters of support as part of its testimony.

Instead, Kahana Solar “chose to wait until its opportunities had passed and then have their contractor Skog Rasmussen collect and submit to the Commission letters of support for the Kahana Solar Project.”

Skog Rasmussen, acting on behalf of their client, Kahana Solar, a participant in the docket, emailed the letters of support to the PUC on August 13 and 13, 2021. The PUC filed them as comments.

Participants in contested case proceedings have a right to cross-examine witnesses and to submit rebuttal evidence.

WMPA “requests that any order issued by the Commission address not only how public comments directly submitted by a party and/or an agent on behalf of a party are handled, but also provide guidance and rules relating to how parties and Participants may or may not solicit public comments for contested case proceedings before the Commission more generally.

Kahana Solar is a Quebec, Canada based company that was incorporated in Delaware and is registered to do business in Hawaii.

Kahana Solar is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Innergex Renewable Development USA LLC, which in turn is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Innergex Renewable Energy Inc.

Innergex operates 75 facilities with an aggregate capacity of 2,742 MW including 37 hydroelectric facilities, 32 wind farms, and six solar farms in Canada, the U.S., France, and Chile.

Innergex owns four proposed projects in Hawai`i: Kahana Solar, Hale Kuawehi, Paeahu Solar, and Barbers Point Solar.

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