Sunday, January 10, 2010

New county energy sustainability plan draft released

The County of Kaua'i has a new draft plan designed to guide us to a sustainable energy future.

Of course, it's got some issues.

There are the things that are going to make it hard to adopt—like a proposed $.50-per-gallon county gas tax. That's designed to promote energy efficient cars, drive people to buses, and fund energy solutions.

And there are things that seem overly hopeful—like producing 45 megawatts from hydroelectric power. It'll be tough to find enough streams without endangered freshwater creatures and waterfowl in them to meet that goal.

And the draft plan seems to miss the boat on several pieces of the energy puzzle. It walks away from wind power and waste-to-energy, and, for some folks who talked at a recent public meeting, it doesn't spent near enough time on energy conservation and efficiency.

But it's a draft, and it should be and will be tweaked before it's final.

The draft Kauai Energy Sustainability Plan's most controversial proposal, based on testimony at a public meeting last week, is this one: “The Kaua`i County Fuel Tax should be raised an additional 50¢/gallon on gasoline and diesel to disincentivize their consumption, while building a Sustainable Ground Transportation Fund to provide incentives for alternative transportation, more efficient vehicles, and an integrated refinery for the Island, etc.”

(As a writer, I can't pass up the opportunity to comment on the use of the horrific word disincentivize. We all occasionally make an unfortunate choice of words or use a word in an unfortunate way. But, I think what the author means here is discourage, which would have been a much better choice. Disincentivize, an ugly word and a waste of syllables, suggests that you're removing a previously existing incentive—and it's not clear here what that incentive is. So much for this neoantidisestablishmentarianistic rant.)

The plan promotes hybrids and electric cars, and is a big, big supporter of biofuels—growing crops for energy production, through biomass conversion to electricity and the development of liquid fuels like ethanol and biodiesel.

Its assessment about the amount of hydropower available on Kauai is likely to be cut, we would think by as much as half.

The plan assumes the island has such great potential for renewable fuels that it will have a glut of power at low-usage hours—the middle of the night—and that hydro and biomass could then conveniently charge up thousands of plug-in hybrid electric cars.

It recommends the county adopt Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards for commercial buildings and the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for new homes. It recommends the county hire three new experts to promote efficiency in government and commercial buildings. They would be a County Energy Efficiency Manager, a County Facilities Energy Manager and a County Policy Manager.

And the draft plan strongly promotes feed-in tariffs for the local utility, the Kaua'i Island Utility Cooperative. This system, which provides higher-than-normal prices for alternative energy production, is designed to promote renewable energy development.

The plan downplays waste-to-energy as a power source like O'ahu's HPOWER plant, saying there are questions about its potential on Kaua'i. It also dismisses wind power, asserting that wind development is on hold due to bird strike issues, even though small wind plants are actively being developed, and developers are working hard on finding technological and regulatory ways to get wind projects approved.

To help ensure that the plan moves forward, it identifies a sponsor: a new energy panel charged with enacting its recommendations. The Sustainable Energy Coordination Team (SECT) would include representatives of: Kaua'i County, the energy utility, the Kaua'i Economic Development Board, state Department of Business, Economic development and Tourism, energy investors, environmental groups, and members of the committee that helped develop the energy sustainability plan itself.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2010


marion said...

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zzzzzz said...

I think the $.50/gallon gasoline tax is a great idea, especially if it's a one-time increase and not phased in (which would decrease its impact on driver behavior).

It's simple and straightforward and doesn't require the creation of any new government programs.