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Hawaii considers US$50m bonds for renewable energy

Hawaii has introduced legislation to create a green jobs sector through the establishment of a ‘Hawaii Clean Energy Investment Bonds’ programme for renewable energy.

The renewable energy proposal was announced by Governor Linda Lingle in her State of the State address in late January, and is modelled on similar programmes which exist in 15 states.

It would assist residential and commercial property owners with the upfront costs of installing renewable energy systems or efficiency upgrades, by allowing them to borrow the money from the state which would be repaid over time through an annual assessment on their property tax bill.

The liability to repay the loan is attached to the property, rather than to the individual, as an assessment on real property.

The renewable energy programme would spur immediate green job creation and economic activity, and could move Hawaii closer to its goal of sourcing 70% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, explains Lingle. The HCEI Bonds programme sector is one of the economic recovery proposals she will be promoting in the months ahead.

Eligible renewable technologies would include solar hot water systems, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, small wind systems and biogas, while energy efficiency improvements would cover physical modifications to property designed to reduce consumption, excluding washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and similar appliances.

Other renewable energy legislation before the state government includes:

  • HB2518 / SB2671 to require 2% of electricity to be generated from biofuel systems starting in 2015;
  • HB2519 / SB2672 to modify the existing ethanol facility tax credit to make it applicable to other biofuel production facilities and remove the statewide production cap of 40m gallons per year to encourage greater use of renewable fuels from organic feedstocks and municipal solid waste;
  • HB2520 / SB2673 to require new single-family residences constructed after January 2012 to be built to allow easy installation of solar electric systems;
  • HB2521 / SB2674 to require single-family residences constructed after January 2015 to be built to net-zero energy levels;
  • HB2522 / SB2675 to exempt from general excise tax the sale of renewable energy systems generating at least 2 MW of power if placed into service between January 2011 and January 2015;
  • HB2530 / SB2683 to expedite the approval process for renewable energy projects proposed for public lands by eliminating duplicative hearings; and
  • BED-R16 to increase the availability of renewable energy by encouraging counties to waive property taxes on properties used for renewable energy projects.

Renewable energy in Hawaii

The Lingle administration reaffirmed its commitment to clean energy in Hawaii at the recent second anniversary of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI). In 2008, Lingle announced the partnership with the US Department of Energy to transform Hawaii from the most foreign oil-dependent state in the USA and she says HCEI is on target to meet its goal of 70% clean energy by 2030.

Between 2006 and 2009, 19 clean energy bills were enacted into law, including a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) and an Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) which she claims are the most progressive in the United States. Another 34 dockets related to clean energy are active before the Public Utilities Commission, including a feed-in tariff.

The Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) agreed in 2008 to integrate 1122 MW of utility-scale renewable energy by 2030, along with 660 MW of customer-sited solar PV and other distributed generation into its grid. Hawaii now leads the USA in solar water heating, which accounts for one-third of all systems installed in 2008. With the ramping-up of solar electric installations on public and private facilities, Hawaii now ranks third in per-capita output from solar PV.

Hawaii is also developing an undersea cable between Maui County and Oahu to transport renewable power from where it is abundant to where it is needed most. The state is proceeding with a number of seafloor surveys and possible cable routes, and has issued a request for proposals for an environmental impact statement in hopes of starting construction of the cable within three years.

The state has obtained US$134m of federal recovery funds have for energy projects in biomass, geothermal, hydro, smart grid, state electricity regulators assistance, energy efficiency and conservation. The private sector has proposed 100 renewable energy projects involving billions of dollars of private investment.

Lingle’s State of the State address proposes a ban on construction of new power plants that burn fossil fuels and a general excise tax rebate on electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles as well as charging stations. It was her 8th and final address as governor.

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Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Geothermal  •  Green building  •  Other marine energy and hydropower  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling  •  Wave and tidal energy  •  Wind power