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Mar 03
2013

As the bills for the 2013 legislative session make their first crossover, here's a look at the Senate bills Blue Planet is tracking:

SB 1087 SD2: Green financing program
On-bill financing—currently being developed at the Public Utilities Commission—overcomes the
biggest hurdle to energy efficiency and clean energy: the up-front cost. By eliminating the initial
cost and enabling ratepayers to pay off the investment directly from energy savings over time,
adoption of efficiency and clean energy will accelerate. This measure establishes a regulatory
financing structure to enable low-cost capital to fund the on-bill financing program. It does so by
using a small portion of the existing ratepayer-funded “public benefits fee” to securitize bonds
that can be used to fund on-bill financing. This would enable residents and small businesses
statewide to access the benefits of solar and efficiency investments.
 
The Green Financing program proposed in SB 1087 SD2 offers several critical benefits:
1. It can be an “anchor” funding source for on-bill financing, ensuring program feasibility
irrespective of the scope or magnitude of private funding sources that wish to participate
in the on-bill program;
2. It can ensure that the on-bill program includes equitable financing options for all
residents, including residents who are otherwise unable to access traditional sources of
private capital for energy improvements, such as renters and low-income households;
3. It can unlock large-scale private capital markets, pushing down the cost of capital, and
making energy efficiency and clean energy even more cost effective for ratepayers;
4. Green Financing bonds do not become a state liability; thus, the on-bill program
catalyzes private investment in our energy infrastructure;
5. It does not raise costs for energy ratepayers; the Green Financing fee established SB
1087 SD2 can simply utilize of a portion of the existing Public Benefits Fee, and bond
repayments will be made by the program participants (i.e. the ratepayers whose energy
bills will be reduced by energy improvements).
 
SB 17 SD2: Fossil fuel tax and reallocation
Hawaii’s barrel tax law is keystone clean energy policy that provides a dedicated investment in
clean energy, funding the critical planning, development, and implementation of clean energy
programs that will foster energy security for Hawaii. Unfortunately, only $0.40 of the $1.05 tax is
dedicated to clean energy and food security. This measure—in preferred form—reallocates the
$1.05 to fulfill the intended sustainability purposes of the policy, with almost half of the funding
being directed to energy security. This measure also repeals the sunset date for the tax. We
believe that this measure properly amends Hawaii’s “fossil fuel fee” to reflect the original intent
of the policy. Blue Planet has found—through extensive market research—that the policy of
taxing our fossil fuel imports to fund clean energy solutions has broad support among Hawaii
residents.

Senate Bill 17 SD2 also expands Hawaii’s fossil tax beyond petroleum products. Blue Planet
strongly supports expanding this “fossil fuel fee” to all fossil imports, including coal (nearly one
million tons imported annually) and industrial methane and gas. We would prefer, however, that
SB 17 SD2 base the fossil tax on energy content, not the carbon emissions at the point of
burning, to accurately capture the impacts of each fuel.  
 
SB 623 SD2: Renewable Energy Tax Credit amendments
Solar energy is currently a bright spot in Hawaii’s progress toward energy independence, and
the renewable energy tax credit has been extremely effective at making Hawai‘i a leader in solar
installations—creating local jobs and providing steady revenue from its business creation. Blue
Planet has found that the renewable energy credit yields a clear, significant net fiscal benefit to
the state, with each commercial PV tax credit dollar invested generates $2.67 in new tax
revenue, among other benefits to the overall economy.
 
Senate Bill 623 SD2—although largely devoid of specific amounts—does contain a number of
elements which make it an attractive policy, for the state economy, the solar sector, and for
achievement of Hawaii’s aggressive clean energy goals. First, the measure follows the
framework and definitions of the federal tax credit law, making it easier for the state to
administer. Second, the proposed policy ratchets down the state renewable energy tax credit for
photovoltaic in a fair and predictable manner, reducing job-jeopardizing volatility in the solar
sector. Finally, the measure establishes a production tax credit for certain projects to reduce the
first year fiscal impact of the credit and to foster innovation and efficiency in renewable energy
systems (the incentive is on the output, not the system cost).
 
SB 1040: Grid modernization consideration at Public Utilities Commission
To take advantage of distributed and diversified sources like solar, wind, and wave, the grid has
to become smarter and have the capacity to store electricity. It will resemble today’s Internet—
where distributed servers both send and receive packets of information—and less like
yesterday’s commercial television. Such a self-aware, robust “smart grid” will instantaneously
adjust to shifts in wind strength or cloud cover over solar, balancing energy loads on the other
side of the wire and drawing on stored energy when needed. This measure requires that the
PUC consider the value of the smart grid and the benefits of modernizing Hawaii’s electricity
grid to accommodate more clean energy sources. This measure will provide important policy
guidance to the PUC to help them weigh the often competing objectives in their deliberations.

Feb 05
2013

Remember how hard we pushed together to pass on-bill financing two legislative sessions ago? We're pleased to announce that the PUC has determined it to be a viable program and initiated the process to make it a reality. Here's the press release we sent out today:

Public Utilities Commission sets landmark on-bill financing program for Hawai‘i in motion

The Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has issued an order that lays out the framework for an on-bill financing program for Hawai‘i residents and small businesses. On-bill financing will enable customers—including renters—to pay for energy efficiency devices and solar energy directly through their electricity bill using the cost savings over time. Blue Planet Foundation successfully advocated for the on-bill financing act at the legislature in 2011 that initiated the investigative proceeding at the PUC later that year. Since then, Blue Planet has been a vocal champion of the policy, serving as an active intervening party throughout the PUC's proceeding.
 
“On-bill financing opens the door for residents statewide to participate in Hawaii's clean energy future," said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of Blue Planet Foundation. "By eliminating the hurdle of unaffordable upfront costs, on-bill financing makes the benefits of clean energy accessible to those who stand to gain the most—those who can least afford it.”

The PUC's order determined that on-bill financing is a viable program for the state and specified key components to be included in the program’s design. The Commission also ordered the creation of a working group to finalize the details of the program and its implementation.
 
Decision highlights:
 
·      Solar photovoltaic, solar thermal water heating and all permanently installed energy efficiency improvements are eligible for financing.
·      Participants will be enrolled in the utility’s demand response programs to help enforce grid stability.
·      An energy audit should be required for participants. This will help prescribe efficiency measures that should be taken before installation of solar PV, and it will determine the size of the PV system that qualifies for financing.
·      The Public Benefits Fee Administrator, currently Hawaii Energy, will administer the program.
·      The working group will offer recommendations to select a financing administrator that has the flexibility of obtaining and distributing low-cost capital from various sources.
·      The financing is attached to the meter so that those making the payments will receive the benefits, and these benefits can be passed between successive occupants of a property.
·      Kaua‘i’s utility cooperative, KIUC, has been directed to create an on-bill financing program for its customers.

Blue Planet advocated for an expansive on-bill program that included energy-efficient appliances and all customer classes. Unfortunately, the PUC took a more narrow position, limiting the types of devices that would qualify for the program and restricting the program to residential and small business customers only.

“We’re disappointed that the Commission didn’t see the value in including all businesses and other commercial customers who face the same challenges to accessing clean energy,” Mikulina continued, emphasizing the need to create a scalable program that can have an even greater overall impact.

He added, “On-bill financing is the kind of smart, innovative solution we need to simultaneously bring economic relief to ratepayers and accelerate our transition to a fossil-free future.”

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Residents and small businesses will be able to finance solar directly on their utility bills? Sunny and Flare do the dance of joy!


 

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In other news...

 

Feb 04
2013

Our 2012 annual report has been published! Check out the digital version here.

Jan 15
2013

Solar power is an investment that is renewable and yields signficant fiscal benefits to the State

The Blue Planet Foundation has released a full report, updated January 2013, detailing the economic impacts of Hawai‘i's renewable energy tax credit. The analysis, conducted by former University of Hawai‘i economist Dr. Thomas Loudat is updated from last spring, peer-reviewed, and includes demographic information from building permits for O‘ahu photovoltaic installations over the past 12 years. (Dr. Loudat’s earlier analysis of renewable energy tax credits was presented in a report to the state legislature in 2002.)

Findings show that the existing tax incentive yields a clear, significant net fiscal benefit to the state. Every commercial PV tax credit dollar invested yields $7.15 that stays in Hawai‘i and $55.03 in additional sales, which generates $2.67 in new tax revenue. For a typical 118 kW commercial PV installation, the state gains 2.7 local jobs each year over the 30-year lifetime of the system.
 

Jan 11
2013

Stay tuned! We're compiling the appendices for our renewable tax credit study, peer-reviewed and updated from last spring with comprehensive analysis and demographic information on PV adopters. Meaty stuff.

Dec 19
2012
Nov 20
2012

Cutting emissions 25% per facility in the next 8 years after probably a century of steady growth? Yeah, that's huge. That's our take on the state's proposed greenhouse gas rules, which will reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 by targeting Hawaii's biggest polluters. If you can make it to one of the public hearings to voice your support, absolutely do so.

Hawaii’s GHG Rules Update

This November marks an important time for Hawaii’s clean air and energy standards. Just this month, the Governor’s office approved a request to notify the public about the proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) rules that have been in motion since 2007. In the next month, four public hearing meetings for the GHG rules are scheduled throughout the islands. 

The public hearings are an opportunity to learn more about the proposed GHG rules, to hear commentary from interested parties, and even contribute to the dialogue and decision making. The Department of Health is also accepting any written comments and recommendations via mail or hand delivery to:

Hawaii State Department of Health, Clean Air Branch
919 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 203,
Honolulu, HI, 96814

 

The comment period ends on January 14, 2013. You can view Blue Planet Foundation's comments here.

To view the official proposed GHG rules, the Department of Health website may be accessed at http://hawaii.gov/health/environmental/air/cab/index.html. The RISE Program and interns have been supporting the GHG rule-making process since January 2011, and the following is our interpretation of the publicly available materials relating to the proposed rules.

 

 

The schedule is as follows:

Date

Location

Tuesday, November 20, 2012, 5pm

Waiakea High School, Hilo, Big Island

Wednesday, November 28, 2012, 2pm

919 Ala Moana Boulevard

(AAFES Building), Honolulu, Oahu

Thursday, November 29, 2012, 5pm

Wilcox Elementary School, Lihue, Kauai

Friday, November 30, 2012, 6pm

Pomaikai Elementary School, Kahului, Maui

 

 

Background to Hawaii’s Proposed Rules:

Hawaii’s proposed GHG rules are a direct result of Act 234, Hawaii’s Global Warming Solution Law, signed in 2007 by Governor Linda Lingle. The Act seeks to reduce Hawaii’s GHG emission levels to that of 1990 levels by January 1, 2020. Since the signing of the Act, the Department of Health Clean Air Branch has been under fire to implement rules that will have a large effect on Hawaii’s electricity generation (see this 8/18/11 Civil Beat article for background on the delays).  The proposed GHG rules will aid in achieving this goal by setting a statewide GHG emissions limit that identifies and requires emissions reductions from the State’s largest GHG emitters. The proposed rules may incur costly effects on major GHG sources, including energy producers and landfills, as they seek to modify their operations in order to reduce their overall emission levels. However, the benefits of these GHG rules includes reducing the state’s dependence on imported fossil fuels; reducing the State’s emissions and contribution to global climate change; and supporting the goals of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.  

Hawaii from a National Perspective of GHG Rules:

Eighteen states have now passed mandatory GHG reporting measures, as illustrated in the map (Source: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, July 5, 2012). The following outlines the major ways in which state rules may differ, and a short summary of Hawaii’s proposed rules:

1.     The sectors required to report – GHG is emitted from sources of all sizes, so each State’s legislating body needs to define sources to require reporting from at an achievable and manageable scale.  The State of Hawaii’s draft rules targets existing electric power producers, refineries, and landfills, while excluding Municipal Solid Waste Combustors such as H-Power, and deferring biogenic emissions until 2014. New or modified sources are also covered, to ensure emissions aren’t being displaced.

2.     The size of facilities that are required to report – Hawaii’s proposed rules target larger sources with potential emissions above 100,000 tons CO2equivalents/year – which is estimated to effect 25 sources in Hawaii.

3.     The setting of GHG Limits – Reporting GHG emissions doesn’t necessarily mean reducing emissions.  Hawaii’s proposed rules seek to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 (as set by Act 234), which equates to 13.66 MMT CO2e – a number taken from the 2008 Hawaii GHG Inventory report by ICF International, which excludes aviation and international bunker fuel emissions and includes carbon sinks.

4.     The setting of fees – Fees may be associated with reporting in order for the State to have the capacity to manage the reporting process. Hawaii’s proposed rules change fees for only federally regulated covered sources, and the fee is based on the amount of emissions emitted.

Comprehensive information about GHG reporting by State is also available on the EPA’s website.

What you can do:

Hawaii’s GHG regulations, though technical, will have a major impact for all of Hawaii’s energy users, Hawaii’s energy producers, and anyone impacted by GHG emissions and global climate change (read: everyone!). If you cannot make it to the above public hearings, please contribute your thoughts by mail or hand delivery by January 14, 2013 to:

Hawaii State Department of Health, Clean Air Branch
919 Ala Moana Boulevard, Room 203,
Honolulu, HI, 96814

Nov 07
2012

Here's a ranking of Hawaii's largest carbon polluters. Note that the top 3 sources pollute as much as the next 21!

Nov 05
2012

A photo journal of the eviction of the Riverdale mobile home park residents in north-central Pennsylvania. From the most excellent website "BURN":

The Riverdale mobile home park used to sit on the banks of the Susquehanna River in north-central Pennsylvania. It housed working families with modest incomes. Earlier this year, all the Riverdale trailer families were evicted to make room for a pump station and pipeline that would move Susquehanna water to fracking sites elsewhere in the state.

Some from Riverdale went willingly. Some did not. Some stayed to fight the evictions. Everyone shared in the hardships. The disruption unsettled families and undermined their support networks as they wondered what to do and where to go.

BURN host Alex Chadwick visits the stories of Riverdale with free lance photographer and Pennsylvania resident Lynn Johnson, who works on assignment for National Geographic.

Check it out here.

Oct 08
2012

Let’s call LNG what it is. LNG is a fossil fuel, just like oil and coal. It’s 90-percent methane (CH4), a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Hawai‘i Gas likes to call methane a “cleaner-burning fuel.” But that handy phrase hides the fact that methane leaks out of the ground during drilling (hello, fracking) and that fossil fuels are consumed to ship it across the sea. LNG is liquefied methane. It’s not clean. It’s not renewable. It’s not local. It’s not sustainable.

Read the rest of our commentary posted at Civil Beat.