HECO vows biodeisel effort will aid trees
STORY SUMMARY »
Hawaii's dominant electricity supplier is pledging that its plans to use more biodiesel fuels really are green.
Hawaiian Electric Co. has revamped its purchasing policy for vegetable-oil feedstocks to address concerns about rain forest destruction in Indonesia.
HECO and its subsidiary Maui Electric Co. plan to use biodiesel to generate electricity by 2009.
The utilities say they'll buy locally grown oil crops over imports.
FULL STORY »
Hawaiian Electric Co. and its affiliates will buy only biodiesel fuel that won't contribute to global warming, the utility announced yesterday.
The National Resources Defense Council helped HECO draw up its new biodiesel purchasing policy, which they say will make Hawaii a national leader in generating electricity from plant-based fuels and spur local farming of oil feedstocks.
The new oil
Hawaiian Electric Co. and its subsidiaries expect to generate electricity with biodiesel -- fuel made from plant oils -- at two facilities by 2009:
» Maui Electric Co.'s Maalaea Plant will be supplied by a 120 million-gallon-a-year, $61 million Blue Earth Biofuels plant to be built nearby.
» A new $142 million HECO power plant in Campbell Industrial Park will run only during peak power needs, using about 20 million gallons of biodiesel per year from an as-yet-unnamed source.
Hawaii uses a larger proportion of petroleum products to make electricity than any other state and HECO wants to help it change, spokesman Peter Rosegg said.
An earlier form of the HECO purchasing agreement was criticized by local environmentalists for not ensuring that palm oil imported to make biodiesel wasn't doing more harm that good.
Some Indonesian palm oil plantations have been planted on former native forests that were slashed and burned -- releasing greenhouse gases and defeating the purpose of using biofuel, some people said at public meetings HECO held on its biofuel policy earlier this summer.
HECO's new policy requires its suppliers of imported palm oil be independently audited to ensure that they:
» Comply with all "Principles and Criteria" of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
» Refuse to buy biofuel feedstocks that destroyed any natural ecosystem.
HECO also will give preference to biofuels from Hawaii-grown feedstocks, using biodiesel from imported palm oil only until local biodiesel becomes available, a company release said.
"Hawaiian Electric's switch to biodiesel and adoption of this sustainable procurement policy could help lead the global transition to more sustainable fuels," said Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the NRDC's energy program.
The conservation organization advised HECO at no charge, as part of its work to help utility companies reduce pollution and release of greenhouse gases, Cavanagh said.
The policy, which goes into effect immediately, includes Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light companies, Rosegg said.
HECO hopes that its new policy will inspire Hawaii farmers to plant oil-producing crops.
"This starts to let the agricultural community see that there is going to be a demand" for biofuel feedstocks, said Mike Poteet, a crop scientist with the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center.
HECO will offer some grants as soon as this fall to help fund experimental crops, Rosegg said.
Energy activist Henry Curtis, president of Life of the Land, said yesterday that HECO's new policy is better now than before, but still "doesn't do anything about promoting a local energy industry" with wind, waves and solar.
If HECO and Imperium Renewables follow through on plans to make a total of 220 million gallons a year of biofuel in Hawaii, there's not enough land to grow all the needed feedstock locally, a state study has shown.
Said Curtis: "They're substituting importing vegetable oil for importing oil."