Monday, October 12, 2009

PUC Chair Takes The Calls, Walks the Talk, but 'Stromeinspeisungsgesetz’ Has Got To Go

Hawaii PUC Chairman Carlito Caliboso
Surprised we were when our invitation to Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Chairman Carlito Caliboso to be a guest on Energy Futures was accepted. We’re not used to such accessibility at the PUC. Maybe it’s just a hold-over impression of the Commission from the ‘80s, when the panel seemed like the Wizard of Oz – safely obscured behind a curtain and never quite decipherable.

But that wasn’t the experience today in our weekly Energy Futures show. Caliboso was approachable, good-humored and forthcoming. He completely shattered our stereotype of a PUC commissioner, so the adage must be true: You never learn less.

Down with Stromeinspeisungsgesetz

Chairman Caliboso’s topic was the recent Feed-In Tariff Decision and Order by the commission. We started the program by noting how completely unacceptable the term “feed-in tariff” is. Meaningful though it may be to energy industry insiders, the hyphenated word means nothing to the average person, and the second word is misleading.

The literal translation of the German law regulating renewable energy contributions to the utility grid – Stromeinspeisungsgesetz – is “act of feeding into the grid,” but that’s no reason we have to live with the phrase. Our suggestion: Renewable Energy Pricing.

Caliboso took several calls from listeners as he explained the rationale behind the Renewable Energy Pricing D&O – to spur the expansion of renewable energy contributions to the islands’ electric grids and reduce Hawaii’s fossil fuel dependence. Today’s show was a rare opportunity for the average Joe and Lokelani to question the PUC Chair, and he acknowledged as much.

The next step in the Renewable Energy Pricing procedure is to set the rates the utilities will pay for photovoltaic, concentrated solar, onshore wind and in-line hydroelectric energy. These are the off-the-shelf technologies that can be brought on-line with relatively little hassle.

Today's show will be archived for a few weeks at Hawaii Public Radio's website, starting sometime Tuesday.

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