HILO — The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is going all in on geothermal.
OHA’s Board of Trustees voted Thursday to invest $1.25 million into the Huena Power Consortium, with an upfront contribution of $600,000.
The Innovations Development Group, a geothermal company based in Honolulu, formed HPC to seek a contract to provide up to 50 megawatts of geothermal electricity with Hawaii Electric Light Co. Eastland, a New Zealand company, has also joined the consortium, according to IDG.
Patricia Madina Talbert, an IDG legal adviser, said workers were in a celebratory mood following the 6-1 vote.
“It’s definitely something we’re joyous about,” she said.
Madina Talbert said OHA would not get its money back if the consortium doesn’t win the HELCO contract. But it stands to receive a return of its investment of more than 20 percent if it does.
OHA already receives 20 percent of the state’s geothermal royalties.
Madian Talbert said OHA hired a third party to assess the pros and cons of the investment before making its decision. The report came back positive, she said.
OHA trustees couldn’t be immediately reached for comment, and an agency spokesman said he couldn’t comment on the issue.
The agency’s investment may be relatively small compared to the total cost of a power plant, which could be over $250 million for the facility.
But having OHA, which represents the interests of Native Hawaiians, on board is critical for IDG to fulfill its goal of using geothermal development to benefit indigenous populations, Madina Talbert said.
“(Geothermal is) going to get done, it’s going to happen,” she said.
“Now, IDG is the only that has a native-to-native protocol that is going to address the problems of the past.
“And we need to be involved in it.”
Rep. Denny Coffman, D-Kailua-Kona, Ocean View, Rep. Mark Nakashima, D-Hilo, Hamakua, Sen. Malama Solomon, D-North Hawaii, and Sen. Gil Kahele, D-Hilo, submitted testimony in favor of the investment, according to IDG.
Companies have until April 30 to submit a proposal for the HELCO contract. A decision may take 120 days.
IDG is considering building a plant on Kealoha Estate land in Pohoiki if it wins the contract.