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PUC looks at linking Maui, O‘ahu power grids

July 18, 2013
Maui Weekly

The Maui News - The Public Utilities Commission is taking a close look at tying together the power grids of Maui and O'ahu with a two-way flow of energy.

The commission's decision to open "an investigation to determine whether an O'ahu-Maui Interisland Transmission System is in the public interest" was one of several key rulings made last week that could affect power acquisition and transmission in Maui County and O'ahu.

The PUC said it was taking the actions to facilitate the development of a "diverse, cost-competitive portfolio of renewable energy projects and utility grid infrastructure improvements that will serve long-term interests of ratepayers."

The PUC ordered Hawaiian Electric Co. to modify its request for proposals for 200 megawatts of renewable energy for O'ahu to eliminate references to the undersea cable and Castle & Cooke's Lana'i Big Wind project.

"Conditions have significantly changed since the Big Wind projects and undersea cable were first proposed in 2008," the PUC release said. It added that the current RFP draft had become "overly complex" and involves "greater elements of uncertainty."

There has been fervent opposition to wind power on Molokai feeding O'ahu as well. First Wind had sought a waiver to competitive bidding, like Castle & Cooke, but had not met the additional conditions set by the PUC. A footnote in the PUC document indicates that the wind power project on Molokai as envisioned is not in the cards.

The Maui-O'ahu grid connection would not be "a fancy extension cord," like the projects on Molokai and Lana'i, said Catherine Awakuni, PUC chief counsel of Big Wind. It would be a grid-to-grid, two-way connection.



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