Councilman questions construction of 3rd boiler as HPower struggles to collect enough trash

Published On: Aug 06 2014 03:34:59 AM HST   Updated On: Jun 30 2014 09:32:13 PM HST

As you stare at the mountain of trash collected at HPower, it's tough to imagine the waste-to-energy plant is suffering from a shortage of trash. But that's exactly the case according to the city's Department of Environmental Services.

Click here for Andrew Pereira's report.

The waste-to-energy plant at Campbell Industrial Park is supposed to receive 3,000 tons of garbage every day, resulting in the production of up to 70 megawatts of electricity. But in an email to KITV4, Environmental Services spokesman Markus Owens said the plant is receiving an average of 2,200 tons of trash per day, while generating 50 megawatts of power.   

The shortfall in garbage and energy production has resulted in Council Chairman Ernie Martin proposing a bill (Bill 47) that would waive waiving tipping fees at HPower for a full month. Under the measure, the director of Environmental Services could suspend tipping fees at the plant if the amount of waste processed falls 100 tons short of its daily capacity for 30 consecutive days. Martin said his bill would allow the city to make the most of the $40 million subsidy paid to HPower operator Covanta Honolulu every year.

"It behooves us to maximize the fee we're paying Covanta to process as much material as we can," said Martin. "I know it's nowhere close to the maximum that it can process."

In October 2012, the city dedicated a third boiler at HPower to process an additional 300,000 tons of waste every year. Martin believes the $302 million investment may have been shortsighted when considering all of the other financial demands being placed on the city.

"I don't know if I had been elected much earlier, that I would've supported the construction of the third boiler," said Martin. "I tend to side with the critics that perhaps we did make an investment that could've been better spent elsewhere."

The Committee on Public Works and Sustainability chaired by Councilman Stanley Chang is scheduled to hear Martin's bill in July. Chang still believes it was a good idea for the city to build a third boiler at HPower, but wants to hear more about the proposal to waive tipping fees.

"We just want to make sure that the bill is going to be fairly applied to everybody," said Chang. "And so as we're looking for more feedstock, we want to make sure that the rules are going to apply equally."

The Current tipping fee at HPower is $91 per ton, while energy produced at the plant is sold to Hawaiian Electric Company at 6 cents to 15 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on the time of day it was generated.

In 2013, HPower processed 678,388 tons of waste, exported 353,840 megawatt hours of energy, and recycled 22,485 tons of ferrous and nonferrous metals. With its third boiler, the plant can process up to 900,000 tons of material every year.


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