Letters 11-27-2012


Power

A public or private utility perspective

After the storm that impacted the New York City metropolitan area, it was a considerable time until the majority of the customers on Long Island had their electric power restored. Here in Hawaii County, I am hard-pressed to think of the last time our HELCO power was interrupted because of natural causes. And when I do recall an instance, it was restored in short order. Perhaps it’s because of the type of electric utility that services these areas.

All U.S. electric utilities fall into one of about 14 different categories. Among these are rural electric cooperatives, public power districts, irrigation districts, municipal systems, and investor-owned utilities. Hawaiian Electric Light Company (HELCO, a part of Hawaiian Electric Industries), falls into the last category, and the electric provider for a good portion of Long Island (LIPA — Long Island Power Authority) is considered among the penultimate type.

So what’s the difference? HELCO is responsible to the investors (share owners), and LIPA, as a non-profit municipal electric provider, answers to government officials. Without any sale of power, no revenue is generated and therefore the HELCO owners receive nothing. While in N.Y., there is no profit, and perhaps there is no overwhelming concern to resume the sale of electricity.

It wasn’t always like that. The former provider of electricity on Long Island was an investor-owned utility (LILCO), but the state of New York felt it could do a better job, and acquired the transmission and distribution component. (Others still own the generation portion.) The goal was to reduce the cost of electricity in the service territory. And in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, they did just that; the kilowatt hour rate was zero.

Eventually, we will have to decide if we want a public or private supplier of electricity.

Michael L. Last

Naalehu

Fish Collecting

Compromise and ban

There is currently a debate in West Hawaii concerning commercial tropical fish collection. One side says nothing less than a total ban on aquarium collection is OK. The other side states getting a total ban (thereby ending residents’ livelihoods) will not be approved by the state, so they have worked out a compromise wherein collectors will be limited to 40 species of fish which they can collect in “open areas” (65 percent of the western shoreline), and Kaohe Bay/Pebble Beach will be added as a protected zone.

I support both sides. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t pass the rule amendment package coming to a public hearing on Dec. 5 and hope for a total ban of fish collecting in the future. Here’s why we should support the current package: We can get it done now; it will add reef to the protected areas; it will outlaw scuba spearfishing; it will limit the species of fish that can be collected, and it adds protection for invertebrates, sharks, and rays.

I’m supporting the WHRFMA amendment. Many years from now, when and if a total ban comes to a vote, I’ll support that. Meanwhile, we can protect some reef fish and other critters. To me, that makes sense.

Lorraine Newport

Ocean View