Report Title:

Consumer Advocate; Alternative Energy

 

Description:

Requires the consumer advocate to advocate for the increased use of renewable energy sources in the provision of public utilities.

 


HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

H.B. NO.

288

TWENTY-FIFTH LEGISLATURE, 2009

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT


 

 

RELATING TO THE CONSUMER ADVOCATE.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


SECTION 1. The legislature finds that it is crucial to Hawaii's economic and environmental future to reduce the use of fossil fuels in the State and expand the use of alternative and renewable energy resources. In the past eight years, we have witnessed an unprecedented rise in the cost of energy. The September 11 terrorist attacks, natural disasters, tumultuous geopolitics, and increased global demand have all contributed to the meteoric rise in the cost of fossil fuels and energy. In addition, pollution from increased fossil fuel use, both in the developed world and in newly industrialized countries, has had a potentially disastrous impact on the climate of the planet. Hawaii is particularly vulnerable to these forces.

Hawaii has a near-total dependence on imported fossil fuels for the provision of energy and transportation. A fuel disruption or dramatic spike in the price of fossil fuels would create a perfect storm for economic disaster here. In addition, our existence as an island state makes Hawaii particularly vulnerable to the violent weather patterns and rising ocean levels that are predicted to take place if climate change goes unabated.

The legislature notes that alternatives exist to these dire possibilities. Hawaii has an abundance of available renewable resources that may be used to produce energy for the State. Use of these renewable resources would reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels and help preserve the quality of our natural environment.

The legislature further finds that the consumer advocate should take a greater role in advocating for the use of alternative and renewable energy resources in the provision of public utilities for Hawaii. One of the most widespread uses of fossil fuels in Hawaii comes from the provision of public utilities, and it is in the interest of all consumers to preserve the economic and environmental future of Hawaii through the increased use of alternative energy where available.

The purpose of this Act is to advance the goals of energy independence and environmental preservation by requiring the consumer advocate to advocate for the use of alternative energy sources in the provision of public utilities.

SECTION 2. Section 269-54, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"269-54 General powers; duties. (a) The consumer advocate shall have the authority expressly conferred by or reasonably implied from the provisions of this part.

(b) The consumer advocate may:

(1) Adopt rules pursuant to chapter 91 necessary to effectuate the purposes of this part.

(2) Conduct investigations to secure information useful in the lawful administration of any provision of this part.

(3) Assist, advise, and cooperate with federal, state, and local agencies and officials to protect and promote the interests of the consumer in the public utilities field.

(4) Study the operation of laws affecting all consumers, including small businesses, of utility services and recommend to the governor and the legislature new laws and amendments of laws in the consumers' interest in the public utilities field.

(5) Organize and hold conferences on problems affecting consumers of utility services.

(6) Perform such other acts as may be incidental to the exercise of the functions, powers, and duties set forth in this section.

(7) Represent the interests of consumers of utility services before any state or federal agency or instrumentality having jurisdiction over matters which affect those interests.

(c) The consumer advocate shall consider the long-term benefits of renewable resources in the consumer advocate's role as consumer advocate.

(d) The consumer advocate shall advocate for the use of renewable energy sources in the provision of public utilities where the cost of using a renewable energy source is not more than twenty-five per cent greater than the cost of using a comparable fossil fuel and where the cost of the renewable energy source is projected to decrease below the cost of the comparable fossil fuel over the following ten years.

[(d)] (e) Whenever it appears to the consumer advocate that: (1) any public utility has violated or failed to comply with any provision of this part or of any state or federal law; (2) any public utility has failed to comply with any rule, regulation, or other requirement of the public utilities commission or of any other state or federal agency; (3) any public utility has failed to comply with any provision of its charter or franchise; (4) changes, additions, extensions, or repairs to the plant or service of any public utility are necessary to meet the reasonable convenience or necessity of the public; or (5) the rates, fares, classifications, charges, or rules of any public utility are unreasonable or unreasonably discriminatory, the consumer advocate may institute proceedings for appropriate relief before the public utilities commission. The consumer advocate may appeal any final decision and order in any proceeding to which the consumer advocate is a party in the manner provided by law.

[(e)] (f) The consumer advocate may file with the commission and serve on any public utility a request in writing to furnish any information reasonably relevant to any matter or proceeding before the commission or reasonably required by the consumer advocate to perform the duties hereunder. Any such request shall set forth with reasonable specificity the purpose for which the information is requested and shall designate with reasonable specificity the information desired. The public utility shall comply with such request within the time limit set forth by the consumer advocate unless within ten days following service it requests a hearing on the matter before the public utilities commission and states its reasons therefor. If a hearing is requested, the public utilities commission shall proceed to hold the hearing and make its determination on the request within thirty days after the same is filed. The consumer advocate or the public utility may appeal the decision of the commission on any such request, subject to chapter 602, in the manner provided for civil appeals from the circuit courts. Subject to the foregoing, [such] those requests may ask the public utility to:

(1) Furnish any information with which the consumer advocate may require concerning the condition, operations, practices, or services of the public utility;

(2) Produce and permit the consumer advocate or the consumer advocate's representative to inspect and copy any designated documents (including writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, recordings, and other data compilations from which information can be obtained), or to inspect and copy, test, or sample any designated tangible thing which is in the possession, custody, or control of the public utility; or

(3) Permit entry upon land or other property in the possession or control of the utility for the purpose of inspection and measuring, surveying, photographing, testing, or sampling the property or any designated object thereon."

SECTION 3. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 4. This Act shall take effect upon its approval; provided that the amendments made to section 269-54, Hawaii Revised Statutes, by section 2 of this Act shall not be repealed when section 269-59 is repealed by section 1 of Act 94, Session Laws of Hawaii 2006.

 

INTRODUCED BY:

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