HELCO asks for do-over on geothermal power bids


The Hawaii Electric Light Co. has made its first announcement in regard to awarding a contract for another 50 megawatts of geothermal power on the Big Island after receiving bids in April.

And the news may be disappointing for all those involved.

HELCO said none of the six bids met its technical and cost-of-power requirements, and will ask each of the companies to submit additional information.

When that request will go out, remained unclear, but spokeswoman Kristin Okinaka said the utility is working with the projects’s “independent observer” on the issue.

“We’re basically giving the bidders an opportunity to provide additional information so we can make an informed decision,” Okinaka said.

Bidders were notified Friday.

HELCO issued a request for proposals for the contract in February. The deadline for submissions was April 30.

Currently, Puna Geothermal Power is the only geothermal power plant in the state. It provides up to 38 mgw.

Initially, HELCO President Jay Ignacio said he hoped to have a selection made by September. A deadline was later set for November.

In the RFP, the utility said it would evaluate bids to determine how they would impact electrical rates.

Okinaka said none of the bids would sufficiently lower electrical costs.

“One of the things we were looking for is that it could lower customer bills,” she said.

Ability to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, reliability of service and impacts to health and the environment are other considerations, Okinaka said.

Geothermal power has been promoted as a renewable energy source that can reduce electrical costs. But critics question whether it’s safe, noting past gas releases at PGV.

Early contracts with PGV also tied the cost of electricity essentially to the cost of producing power from fossil fuels, allowing for little impact to customer bills.

HELCO has said it is trying to renegotiate such contracts.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.