Richard Ha writes:
Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has consistently made the point that in this changing world, we, too, must change. He pointed that out again recently: That our highest-in-the-nation electricity cost – which is 25 percent higher than O‘ahu’s – is too heavy a burden for the Big Island’s people to bear. To help the most defenseless among us, as well as our local businesses, we need lower cost renewable electricity; not higher cost electricity.
The mayor has consistently been in favor of finding lower cost alternatives to the status quo (which is, of course, dependency on expensive fossil fuels). The Geothermal Working Group, co-chaired by Wally Ishibashi and me and authorized by the Hawai‘i State Legislature, could not have carried out its work without the mayor’s backing. It was an unfunded mandate implemented by volunteers. The mayor just told his people, “Make sure they have what they need."
Mayor Kenoi is a quick learner; one who gets both the big picture and the small one.
He led a delegation to Ormoc City, Philippines to see how 700 MW of geothermal energy was developed in a place with a population size similar to the Big Island. I was on that trip and saw how the Philippines is way ahead of us in assessing and utilizing its resource. It’s a great credit to Filipino leaders that, as the Philippines incorporates more geothermal into its grid, the country will be very well-positioned to cope in a world of rising oil prices.
The Philippines produces a large percentage of the food its people eat, too, as compared to Hawai‘i. Our trip also resulted in a university-to-university relationship.
It’s not that geothermal is the only solution. But because we have geothermal here on the Big Island, that fact-finding trip was a responsible thing to do. That was a very practical, useful and cost effective trip Billy led.
Sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawai‘i is vulnerable to events out of its control, and is sailing into uncharted waters. It’s similar to when our early predecessors sailed up from the south to find a better life.
Who can I see leading today’s expedition that carries the Big Island to a better tomorrow?
I see Billy Kenoi as that leader.