- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii’s Board of Education is disappointed with the firm hired to carry out a program to reduce electricity expenses in public schools statewide.

Board members on Tuesday questioned the competence of contractor OpTerra Energy, saying they haven’t seen any energy savings.

The Department of Education’s five-year sustainability program called Ka Hei includes solar panel installation and other energy-saving measures that would produce $1.1 billion in savings over 25 years, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (https://ow.ly/HI856) reported.

“We paid you several million dollars’ worth of consulting fees, and as it sits here today, our utility costs, I don’t know how much it’s been impacted by your expertise,” board Chairman Don Horner said.

OpTerra Regional Manager Brian Kealoha said the electricity company has been slow to approve photovoltaic applications. The company expects to start construction within the next few months on photovoltaic systems that will produce two megawatts of renewable energy by the end of the year, he said.

The company has done energy audits at the 30 schools selected for photovoltaic in areas where Hawaiian Electric Co. is allowing the systems to connect to the power grid, Kealoha said.

Horner and others questioned why audits haven’t been done on all schools.

The Legislature reduced the department’s utilities funding next year by $9 million, factoring in the projected savings. The department is asking for $13 million to cover energy costs.

“We’re impatient to get as much savings as we can because we have so many budgetary constraints,” said Brian De Lima, chairman of the board’s Finance and Infrastructure Committee.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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