The Maui News - The state Senate passed a bill on Thursday, May 3, that would set up the regulatory framework for development of a high-voltage electric transmission undersea cable to link the state into a single power grid.
Bill proponents said that cable would allow power sharing between islands, increasing the reliability of electricity and stabilizing costs in Hawai'i, where residents pay about $200 a month for electricity--or three times the national average.
Robin Kaye, a spokesman for the group Friends of Lana'i, which opposes a proposed wind farm project on the island's north end because of the development's cultural and environmental impacts, maintained that the bill would have electricity consumers pay for the cable's costs, now estimated at $1 billion.
Sen. J. Kalani English voted in favor of the bill, but with reservations. He emphasized that the Legislature isn't approving the cable project and had no concrete proposal to consider.
"The production is on the Big Island and Maui. The need is on O'ahu," English said.
But he noted that "Maui has become the energy hub" with various alternative energy projects, including two windmill fields, photovoltaic systems and other alternative energy projects.
For those concerned about O'ahu taking in all the energy from the Neighbor Islands, Sen. Mike Gabbard said that the Neighbor Islands also enjoy some of O'ahu's fruits because the islands' residents are subsidized with state support for roads and social services.
The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 22-3. Ten Senators voted "yes" with reservations.
The bill will be forwarded to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who has 45 days to take action. His administration proposed the measure, and during his State of the State Address, Abercrombie said there was no legislation more critical to Hawai'i's future than the undersea cable bill.