HECO lays out
The utility presents plans
for underground lines that
will cost up to $122 million
Hawaiian Electric Co. officials are proposing to spend between $41 million to $122 million to connect Waikiki, Manoa and parts of East Oahu to what they say is a much-needed back-up transmission line.
The company has proposed three alternatives to HECO's original $31 million plan to place overhead power lines along Waahila Ridge. Depending on which plan is used, HECO said it would add 70 cents to $2 to the monthly residential electric bill.
The Waahila Ridge plan faced strong opposition and was denied by the Board of Land & Natural Resources, but HECO officials maintain that they must have an additional transmission line to prevent a large-scale power failure if other lines go down. Such a power outage could wipe out electricity for 16 percent of Oahu, they say.
"We just can't wait until the power outage comes and then say, 'We told you so,'" said HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg. "That's not being responsible."
HECO presented three different plans to install underground transmission lines at a public meeting in Waipahu last night at the Filipino Community Center. All three options call for underground lines.
The first would run a 138-kilovolt line from the Kamoku Substation on Date Street up to the Pukele Substation on Myrtle Street in Palolo Valley which would cost between $110 million and $122 million. Another alternative would run a 46-kilovolt line less than a mile from the Makaloa Substation to the McCully Substation on Lime Street and cost $41 million. A third option is an expanded version of the 46-kilovolt plan that also includes another 1.9-mile underground line from the Archer Lane Station on Cooke Street, running Koko Head on King to McCully Street and ending at Young Street.
"People in Palolo don't want to see underground lines in a residential neighborhood," said Palolo Neighborhood Board member Traver Carroll. "No matter what happens, it'll be disruptive."
As for HECO's argument that the lines are needed to avoid a catastrophic power failure, "They made a decent case ... but I have my doubts about that."
HECO plans to recommend one of the proposals to the Public Utilities Commission for approval by the end of the year.
Under state law a utility has the right to seek PUC approval for rates that cover capital improvements plus up to 9 percent profit, an incentive that critics say is the real reason HECO is pushing for the changes.
"HECO doesn't make any money on maintenance, they make money on capital improvement projects," said Henry Curtis, of the environmental group Life of the Land. "The more expensive projects they have out there, the more money they make ... the more they spend on maintenance, the less they make.
"That's why HECO is always looking at how they can build the next project."
Last night was the first of HECO's three public meetings to explain its alternatives. The meetings will be followed by two Community Advisory Committee meetings, composed of neighborhood board representatives, groups that opposed the Waahila Ridge plan and other participants. Tonight's meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the Dole Cannery Ballroom on Iwilei Road, and tomorrow's meeting at 7 p.m. at Hawaii Pacific University's Hawaii Loa Campus in Kaneohe.
Although some people praised the fact that HECO was making an effort to keep the community informed, others complained that the meetings were taking place far away from the areas where the underground transmission lines would go.
"That's where you're building it ... that's the community that needs to have input," said Palolo resident Dale Nakayama. "A lot them are elderly, and they don't travel at night."