New & Noteworthy: Saving Sandalwood, Logging Sandalwood, and Renewable Energy

posted in: July 2011 | 0

Hawaiian Sandalwood ‘At Risk’: United Plant Savers, a group dedicated to protecting native medicinal plants and their habitat in the United States and Canada, has now added six species of Hawaiian sandalwood to its list of “at-risk” species. The list, writes executive director Susan Leopold in the group’s summer newsletter, “has been used since UpS was established as a way to bring awareness to the vulnerability of overharvesting of native medicinal plants.”

Hawai`i “remains the only region in the world where sandalwood is being commercially harvested without regulation,” she notes. In addition, “Native Hawaiian sandalwood represents a quarter of the diversity of the genera Santalum. Six separate species are found throughout the islands, and within these species are several unique varieties, all endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.” Only one, Santalum freycinetianum var. lanaiense, has been officially recognized as endangered.

The listing by UpS is an effort, she writes, “to bring about stewardship of these living Hawaiian heirlooms that desperately need regulations that will provide guidelines to their management and protection.”

Meanwhile, in Hokukano: The sandalwood logging continues apace, now under the supervision of a bankruptcy trustee. According to the latest documents filed with the bankruptcy court, Jawmin (the sandalwood logging company which is in Chapter 11 proceedings) is expecting that its sales to a sandalwood middleman will bring in revenues amounting to more than $9 million.

The middleman is Wescorp Pacific Sandalwood, an Australian company. Its mission, as stated on its website, is to provide “sustainable quality sandalwood products to the world.” Jawmin ships the sandalwood directly to the parties lined up by Wescorp, and Wescorp pays the invoices.

Tim Coakley, executive director of Wescorp, stated in an email to Environment Hawai`i that his company “is absolutely comfortable that the harvest is operating in a sustainable manner otherwise we would not be involved.”

“It is very important to our company that we only be involved in sustainable harvesting of sandalwood,” he wrote. Coakley was scheduled to visit the Kona logging site in late June.

Powerful People: Efforts to facilitate the integration of renewable energy into island utility grids are ramping up. Last month, the state Public Utilities Commission contracted with Alison Silverstein Consulting to serve as the independent facilitator of the long-awaited reliability standards working group (RSWG). The Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) had originally proposed to manage the $100,000 contract, but the PUC rejected the idea in March.

The RSWG, proposed by HECO in response to criticism that it had been slow to promote renewable energy, will help “determine how we can interconnect the maximum amount of renewable generation to the grid while preserving grid reliability,” a June 14 PUC order states.

Parties to the PUC’s dockets on net metering, photovoltaics (PV), intra-governmental wheeling, feed-in tariffs, and a proposed amendment to HECO’s interconnection standards began naming their representatives to the group on June 20.

As of June 21, Hawai`i County; the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism; Zero Emissions Leasing, LLC; Life of the Land; Blue Planet Foundation; and South Maui Renewable Resources had submitted their selections to the PUC.

In related news, the PUC ordered HECO companies and parties interested in feed-in tariffs to “review the FIT experience to date, identify ‘lessons learned’, and apply those lessons to the deign of Tier 3 [tariffs],” states a June 3 PUC order. 

Tier 3 tariffs apply to renewable energy projects greater than Tier 2 limits –those up to 500 kilowatts of PV and concentrated solar power (CSP) on O`ahu, 250 kw of PV on Maui and Hawai`i, 100 kw of PV and CSP on Lana`i and Moloka`i, and 100 kw of in-line hydro-power and onshore wind on all islands — and up to 5 megawatts on O`ahu and 2.72 MW on Maui and Hawai`i (not including wind) or one percent of the grid’s peak load from the previous year.

The PUC’s independent observer will facilitate discussion among the parties this month and they must file revised Tier 3 tariffs with the commission by August 15.

Volume 22, Number 1 — July 2011

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