Hawaii Supreme Court upholds PUC’s approval of power purchase agreement


Pono Power Coalition, a community group opposed to the Paeahu Solar plant, was recently told by Hawaii’s Supreme Court that it upheld Public Utilities Commission’s approval of a power purchase agreement (PPA) between Maui Electric Co. and Paeahu Solar.

The Coalition opposed Maui Electric’s plans to locate a utility-scale solar power plant near a residential neighborhood and near the massive volcano, Haleakala.

The Coalition hired lawyers for a case that was heard before the Hawaii PUC, and when they lost that case, it was elevated to the state’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court recently found that the Coalition did not show how the project would exacerbate water runoff or damage native plants and ultimately found that the PUC had properly evaluated allegations of harm and had  lawfully approved the utility’s agreement to purchase energy from the Paeahu solar plant.

The 1.5MW Paeahu Solar Project, owned by the Canadian firm Innergex, will consist of multiple zones of ground‐mounted solar PV arrays, a substation, and a 60MWh battery energy storage system. The project will be situated on approximately 200 acres of Ulupalakua Ranch land, in South Maui and is expected to power about 7,300 Maui households with clean, renewable energy.

Just three months ago, another Hawaiian solar project by Innergex was challenged by a community group, but that dispute ended in the group withdrawing its complaint after completion of mediator-led negotiation.

Hawaii has the highest electric prices in the country, and Hawaiian Electricity recently warned that prices may rise 10% in the coming months due to the Ukraine crisis and inflation. The state hopes to turn to renewable energy for relief, and while it is currently receiving just over 17% of its electricity from solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, and it has set the ambitious goal of receiving 100% from renewables by 2045.

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