A law mandating discounts for electricity was intended to help a niche and energy-dependent sector in the agricultural industry pay its bills. But the rates Hawaiian Electric came up with to meet the new legal requirement are so minor that some farmers say they won’t bother even applying if the state Public Utilities Commission approves them.
Hawaii only has a handful of successful protected agriculture operations that supply stores and restaurants around the state. But across the world, the techniques have been recognized as an efficient means to increase food production by removing a chief variable: climate uncertainty.
Despite the increased control that comes with protected agriculture and its lower need for water and land, protected operations are typically energy-intensive, which translates to hefty bills that are even higher in Hawaii, the most expensive state in the U.S. when it comes to electricity.
Jason Brand, a partner at Kunia Country Farms, is grateful for the preferential rate but is uncertain how much of an impact it will make on his operation’s annual energy costs.
The 3-acre aquaponic farm produces approximately 5,000 pounds of produce per week, but the cost of energy is a major hindrance, especially as it tries to compete with mainland operators who pay far less for electricity.
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