Maui Electric Company (MECO) proposes to build a new substation across from Kamali'i School and run transmission lines held up by 70-foot metal poles all the way from their Ma'alaea power plant.
Hundreds of Kihei residents and I have already publicly informed MECO that we don't want these ugly poles running through Kihei-whether they are along the Pi'ilani Highway or marring our mountain view on the edge of the urban growth boundary. Even putting them on the slopes of Haleakala is just kicking the can down the road, and is still destroying Maui's scenic beauty.
House Rep. Denny Coffman, chair of the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, addressed my concern via email: "I view this as a "home rule' issue."
Luckily Mayor Alan Arakawa's administration supports burying all future power lines.
"Maui needs to come into the 21st century," exhorted Planning Director Will Spence.
We are in a time of rapid technological development. There are numerous alternative options being discussed with MECO, including geothermal, solar and wind.
People fear that if MECO is required to bury lines underground, our rates will be raised. However, a MECO representative explained to me that because of the increased cost of maintaining overhead lines, while placing them underground requires higher up-front costs, it evens out in the long run.
MECO is a private, for-profit company. In exchange for the privilege of being able to maintain a monopoly, they are required to serve all areas-even the most remote. They also must go before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for project approval and if they want to raise rates.
I, along with only three other ratepayers, testified at a PUC meeting last year. Because there was so little resistance, MECO got their increase. Now everyone is complaining about high electric bills. And MECO wants to raise rates again!
Approximately 100 South Maui residents attended MECO's meeting last year at Kamali'i School. Not one was in favor of 70-foot power poles-regardless of the route chosen. Like many advanced jurisdictions worldwide, we insist on alternatives to ugly, monstrous poles, especially when other viable possibilities exist.
If either maintaining South Maui's scenic beauty or denying MECO yet another rate hike is important to you, please join us at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Maui Waena Intermediate School Cafeteria and express your views.
Remember, the PUC oversees MECO, and this meeting is the place to make our voices heard.