Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015

Hawai`i's 28th state Legislature opens today, with Sen. Josh Green, Sen. Russell Ruderman, Rep. Richard Creagan and Rep. Richard Onishi returning to work for constituents in Ka`u.
HAWAI`I’S 28th STATE LEGISLATURE OPENS TODAY. Events will be streamed live online at www.olelo.org
       Call to order takes place at 10 a.m., followed by the invocation and singing of the National Anthem and Hawai`i Pono`i. Elections include Temporary Clerk, Senate President, Vice President and Officers. Entertainment is scheduled throughout the meeting.
      Information about the state Legislature, including a schedule of rebroadcasts of opening day, is available at capitol.hawaii.gov.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

A new HECO program may make room for more rooftop solar systems.
Photo by Julia Neal
HAWAIIAN ELECTRIC COMPANIES ARE PROPOSING a new program to increase rooftop solar in a way that they contend is safe, sustainable and fair for all customers. 
      In conjunction with this Transitional Distributed Generation program, the utilities expect to more than double the threshold for neighborhood circuits to accept solar systems. This would eliminate in most of those cases the need for a longer and costly interconnection study.
      Under the proposal, existing Net Energy Metering program customers and those with pending applications would remain under the existing NEM program. Any program changes from this proposal would apply only to new customers.
      The initiative is part of HECO’s clean energy transformation to lower electric bills by 20 percent, increase the use of renewable energy to more than 65 percent, triple the amount of distributed solar by 2030 and offer customers expanded products and services.
      Currently, NEM customers send energy into the grid and draw power when their systems do not provide enough for their needs. According to HECO, many NEM customers are able to lower their bills to the point that they do not help pay for the cost of operating and maintaining the electric grid, and, as a result, those costs are increasingly being shifted from those who have solar to those who don’t.
      Under the current NEM program, customers receive credit on their electric bills at the full retail rate for electricity they produce. This credit includes the cost of producing electricity plus operation and maintenance of the electric grid and all other costs to provide electric service.
      HECO said the new program would credit customers at a rate that better reflects the cost of the electricity produced by their rooftop solar systems.
      If this transitional program is approved, HECO expects to be able to modify interconnection policies, more than doubling the solar threshold for neighborhood circuits from 120 percent of daytime minimum load to 250 percent of DML. In many cases, this will eliminate the need for longer and costly interconnection studies.
      Hawaiian Electric is asking the PUC to approve the new program within 60 days. Under the utilities' proposal, the Transitional Distributed Generation program would remain in effect while the PUC works on a permanent replacement program, to be developed through a collaborative process involving stakeholders from across the community, including the solar industry.
      As of December 2014, about nine percent of Hawai`i Electric Light Co. customers had rooftop solar. This compares to a national average of 0.5 percent as of December 2013, according to the Solar Electric Power Association.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Sen. Brian Schatz
U.S. SEN BRIAN SCHATZ offered a favorable reaction to President Obama’s State of the Union address. “Tonight we heard the President lay out his vision for the year ahead to ensure that our economy continues its recovery and that our economic policies and priorities strengthen and expand the middle class,” Schatz said. “This is particularly important in Hawai`i, where the high cost of living makes it tougher for hard-working middle class families to share in the American dream. 
      “For too long, the wealthiest Americans and big corporations have used unfair loopholes to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Tonight, the President proposed a simpler, fairer tax code that closes those loopholes and uses those savings to support tax credits for working parents. These smart investments will help middle class families succeed and bolster our economy.
      “The President’s proposal to expand access to higher education and make community college free for every responsible student is an important step forward. We all know that a college education is the best way for people to move up the economic ladder.
      “I am also glad that the President focused on home ownership and the need to make mortgages more affordable. Helping families attain the dream of home ownership is even more important in Hawai`i, where the high prices stress family budgets.
      “I hope as we begin the New Year my Republican colleagues in Congress will welcome the President’s proposals to strengthen the middle class and will work with Democrats to make the American dream a reality for all Americans.”
      See comments from other members of Hawai`i’s U.S. congressional delegation in future Ka`u News Briefs.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

VOLCANO ART CENTER IS PLEASED to be working with Jr. Volcano Choy to create an after school music program at Ka`u Middle School. Choy now lives in Volcano following a professional performing and recording career on the mainland.
      Due to budget cuts, the school has a band room full of instruments that are part of a full band program that have not been used for years. Now, through a grant to Volcano Art Center from the Hawai`i State Foundation on Culture & the Arts, Volcano Choy, will begin teaching after school music classes this winter and spring. All those involved with the after school program are excited to bring band music back to Ka`u.
      To help raise the needed funds, a benefit jazz concert will be held on Saturday, Jan. 31 at Pahala Plantation House to help raise funds for the restoration of brass and woodwind instruments, to buy sheet music and cover other costs of this music program.
      The outdoor concert will be from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., with food and drinks available for purchase. Suggested donation is $15, which will go to benefit the Ka`u Middle School band program. Attendees are asked to bring their own lawn chairs.
       Donations to support this music program may also be made directly to Volcano Art Center.
      For more information regarding the concert or afterschool program, contact VAC at 967-8222 or www.volcanoartcenter.org.
      For information about the Pahala Plantation House & Cottages, call 928-9811.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

HAWAI`I COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT is sending trained technicians to perform free car seat inspections to Pahala tomorrow. Beginning at 9 a.m., the inspections will be performed at Pahala Community Center.
      Families with young children are invited to take advantage of this free service and to drop in and play at Tutu and Me while they are there.
       Each inspection takes about 20 minutes to complete. Technicians will stay as long as there are car seats to inspect.
      Hawai`i County Fire Department has over 60 child passenger safety technicians islandwide that provide information and safe installation of child restraints. There are also many others in the community that are active in child passenger safety as well.

A member of the Hokule`a crew recounts her experiences Friday.
Photo from `Imiloa
`IMILOA ASTRONOMY CENTER INVITES Ka`u residents to the wayfinding talk Voices from the Wa`a Friday at 7 p.m. The program features Keala Kahuanui, a watch captain, cook and assistant quartermaster aboard Hokule`a as she recounts her experiences of what it took to keep a crew happy and healthy for two months at sea, even amidst a raging storm. `Imiloa’s wayfinding programs are made possible through the title sponsorship from Matson. 
      The program is $10 for non-members and $8 for members (member level discounts apply). Tickets may be pre-purchased at `Imiloa front desk or by phone using Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or JCB, by calling 969-9703 during regular business hours. Tickets are non-refundable.

KEIKI CAN STILL REGISTER at local schools and businesses for `O Ka`u Kakou’s seventh annual Fishing Tournament & Canned Food Drive coming up Saturday at Punalu`u Beach Park. Ages one to 14 check in between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. for fishing from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. OKK provides poles, bait and free lunch. Registration is available.
      Call 217-2253 or 937-4773 for more information.

KA`U NATURAL FARMING WORKSHOP is coming up the next two Saturdays, Jan 17 and 24, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Earth Matters Farm at South Point and Kama`oa Roads. Participants learn about creating soil health & nutritional food. 
      $100 for both days includes garden lunch.
      Register at 939-7510.


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