Big Island mayor ends waste-to-energy incinerator
January 25, 2015
The Associated Press

KAILUA-KONA (AP) - A Hawaii County effort to build a waste-to-energy incinerator as an alternative to landfills will be halted because of changes in the project's economics, Mayor Billy Kenoi announced.

Kenoi said Friday that he will not move forward on what would have been the county's most expensive public works project, West Hawaii Today reported. The estimated cost was more than $100 million.

A decrease in oil prices from $100 per barrel to less than $50 has driven down what Hawaii Electric Light Co. would pay the county for electricity generated by the incinerator, Kenoi said. That made it less likely the incinerator would pay for itself, he said.

"It didn't pencil out," Kenoi said. "The numbers last year are not the numbers that we have today."

When the county put out a request for qualifications last year, the cost the utility would have paid for power from an outside source was about 20 cents per kilowatt hour. Early calculations said a waste-to-energy incinerator could be cost-effective, selling power for 17 cents a kilowatt hour.

The "avoided cost" paid by the utility for power from the incinerator has dropped between 8 and 10 cents, Kenoi said.

There's also uncertainty with ownership of the Hawaii Electric's parent company. It's being purchased by NextEra Energy Inc., based in Juno Beach, Fla., and the state Public Utilities Commission could take as long as 18 months to approve the sale.

Bids for the project were going to be due March 3. Kenoi said he called the three finalists Friday morning to inform them of the project's cancellation.

Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, an opponent of the incinerator, praised the decision.

"We had an educated public, and no way were we going to be steamrolled into a 25-year contract," Wille said. "This is exactly the thing we've been trying to say. Conditions change, and we need to be flexible and not locked in."

Kenoi said he will work on diverting organic and green waste from the county's landfills and will seek a state permit to steepen the slope of the existing Hilo landfill, which could extend its life by eight to 10 years.



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