Hawaiian Electric, via its HELCO subsidiary, is scheduled to select its partner for a 50 megawatt geothermal development on the Island of Hawaii within a matter of weeks.
HELCO’s selected partner will build and operate the geothermal plant, and sell the resulting power under the terms of a power purchase agreement.
Bidders likely include Irael-based ORMAT, which operates the existing geothermal plant as Puna Geothermal Ventures, and Innovations Development Group’s Huena Power, which boasts a “native-to-native” business model.
Although the contract award is imminent, community opposition continues.
More than 400 people staged a peaceful protest in front of HELCO’s office in Hilo last week, according to activist Jim Albertini.
“I haven’t seen that many Puna folks out since the rainforest protest in 1990. It was a lively gathering, including drumming, chants, and lots of creative signs. People actually marched more than 20 miles from Pahoa to Hilo over 3 days, including many senior citizens. The final leg today had about 200 coming in from Panaewa/Puainako. Organizers did a great job. They delivered a petition to HELCO CEO Jay Ignacio with over 3400 signatures. This was a big event for Hilo. The response from cars passing by was enthusiastic. HELCO is not loved. There should be coverage in the Trib tomorrow. HELCO and the powers that be better take this seriously. If they push forward with more geothermal there is likely to be large scale non-violent civil disobedience, similar to what helped stop the destruction of the Wao Kele O Puna rainforest by 500MW of geothermal energy planned there.”
The petition read:
“We want Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) to stop its contract for new geothermal development on the Island of Hawaii, because the contract was excluded from the utility company’s recent public planning effort, and previous geothermal sites on this island have been notoriously unsafe, unclean, and poorly regulated.’
Meanwhile, New Zealand energy company, Eastland Group Limited, has at least temporarily written down a $1.25 million “advance” to Innovations Development Group that was to be repaid in cash “or by the exercise of an option held by EGl to invest in a Hawaiian based geothermal project controlled by IDG. ”
The information appears in a footnote to Eastland’s financial statements for the year ending March 31, 2012.
Eastland Group limited has advanced to Innovations development Group (IdG) a total of usd $1.65 million which, as at 31 March 2012 had a carrying value of NZD $2.0 million. USD $400k of this loan is repayable in 6 monthly instalments, once management fees payable to IDG in accordance with the TAOM project development agreement are paid to them. It is expected that these repayments will commence during the 2012/13 financial year. the remaining us $1.25 million is repayable within 5 years either in cash or by the exercise of an option held by EGL to invest in a Hawaiian based geothermal project controlled by IDG. after taking into consideration the stage that the TAOM and Hawaiian projects are at as at 31 March 2012, and in accordance with the requirements of New Zealand International Financial reporting standards, the directors have decided to provide for the USD $1.25 million as at this date and will continue to monitor this on an on-going basis for indication of reversal of this provision. There is a general charge over the IDG interest in TAOM as security for the USD $1.25 million loan.
Eastland is 80 percent partner in the Te Ahi O Maui geothermal project (TAOM) in New Zealand, with IDG holding a 10% partnership interest. IDG apparently leveraged payments it would be due for participating in TAOM to get the $1.65 million loan which it has used to pursue the HELCO geothermal contract.
IDG says its technology is more modern and safer than that used by ORMAT’s Puna Geothermal Venture. However, it is apparently untested in Hawaii and it’s suitability to Hawaii’s active volcanic environment still to be proven.
Innovations Development Group was founded by Roberta Cabral, who pleaded guilty in 2002 to federal charges of tax evasion and wire fraud stemming from two schemes to defraud the labor organization, Unity House, Inc.
One set of tax charges related to commissions Cabral received from North Pacific Investments, Inc., which promised Unity House big returns that were supposed to be earned on investments in “prime bank notes.” Former Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Jack Gonzales was sentenced to 15 years for his role in the same investment fraud.
Other charges resulted from what the government described as “a scheme to ‘pad’ the budget of a one-hour television project funded by Unity House, Inc. entitled ‘Heavenly Road’, later known as ‘Blue Hawaii’, for which she was to receive a kickback of $150,000.”
Innovations Development Group also made news last year when it put money behind former football coach Cal Lee’s campaign to unseat OHA trustee Haunani Apoliona.