HECO forms alternative
energy branch

Staff and news services

Hawaiian Electric Co. has created a new subsidiary to pursue alternative energy sources and reduce Hawaii's dependence on fossil fuels.

"We know how critical renewable energy is to our state," T. Michael May, HECO's president and chief executive officer, said yesterday. "We sponsor the largest solar water-heating program in the nation and already buy power from renewable sources such as HPOWER, geothermal and wind."

Hawaiian Electric Industries Forming a separate company to invest in other alternative energy projects takes the company's commitment to the next level, he said.

Joining May in the announcement was Gov. Linda Lingle, who during her gubernatorial campaign pledged to work toward having Hawaii using 20 percent renewable energy by 2020.

"Reducing Hawaii's dependency on fossil fuels is a high priority for my administration," she said, adding that it will help the environment and protect consumers from volatile oil prices.

"It will take private and public partnerships to achieve this goal, which is why I am pleased that HECO is stepping up to the plate by creating Renewable Hawaii Inc.," she said.

The Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club issued a press release that said the environmental group views the new subsidiary with "cautious optimism" but questions HECO's commitment to alternative energy.

"While we're encouraged that HECO is starting to talk about renewable energy, their track record and current plans for new power plants tell a different story," Jeff Mikulina, director of the Hawaii chapter, said in the release.

Karl Stahlkopf, HECO's senior vice president of energy solutions and chief technology officer, will take on the added role as president of Renewable Hawaii, May said.

HECO will put $10 million into the subsidiary, with more funding "as projects that merit support are presented to the company," he said.

HECO said it and its neighbor island subsidiaries in Maui County and the Big Island reached 7 percent electricity sales from alternative sources last year. That compares with the 2 percent national average.

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