- Associated Press - Monday, January 25, 2016

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - Maui Electric Co. is looking for another source of power for the island’s electric grid following the announcement that the state’s last plantation is closing down.

Alexander & Baldwin, the parent company of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., announced earlier this month that it was shutting down its sugar operations by the end of the year. The company gave the utility notice that the plantation’s Puunene Mill will no longer generate power for the island.

“As a business partner for many decades, we wish HC&S; success as it transitions to a new chapter,” MECO officials said Thursday. “Our partnership in providing power here on Maui has a long history, and we have had the privilege of working very closely with HC&S; employees. We appreciate having had the opportunity of working and growing together in serving our community.”

The end of the purchase power agreement will not take effect until Jan. 6, 2017, The Maui News reported (https://bit.ly/1Se9UcM ).

The plantation has burned mostly bagasse, the fibrous residue of squeezed sugar cane, but it also has used coal to fuel its Puunene Mill generators.

Maui Electric Co. officials did not give an exact figure for the amount of power supplied by the mill, but said it was a “very small percentage.”

“Over the years, HC&S; has provided much-needed reserve or backup power that was available almost immediately to support the system during extenuating circumstances,” MECO said. “Such examples include severe storms or hurricanes where electrical infrastructure is severely damaged or a large generator is lost. Under these conditions, Maui Electric may not have a sufficient amount of reserve capacity to serve all customers at times when the demand for electricity is high.”

The utility said it will “explore all options” to replace the backup generation provided by the mill, including demand-response programs, distributed generation, additional utility-scale generation and emergency generators.

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Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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