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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.”

***

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...

 

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.

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.

Jul 23
2012

DBEDT recently updated their "Top 40" list of renewable energy projects that are currently underway or online. The largest is Kawailoa Wind, a 69 MW wind farm on the North Shore of O‘ahu that will produce enough energy to power 14,500 homes. On the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative website, you can also find Hawai‘i renewable energy projects mapped by island.

Jul 09
2012
Four panels discussed hot topics at this year's Hawaii Clean Energy Day at the YWCA. The issues?

-- Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) – Transitional fuel or replacement to oil?
-- Undersea Cable - Will it work? Is it worth it?
-- Is locally sourced biofuels a reality?
-- Hawaii’s Energy Efficiency & Solar Industries: Rising or setting?

The event was hosted by the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum with support from Blue Planet Foundation, Hawaii Energy, Hawaiian Electric Company, DBEDT and Think Tech Hawaii. Thanks to all the speakers and attendees!

Photos of the event are posted here .
Jun 12
2012
Ivory's editorial piece on the benefits of smart meters was published in Kaua‘i's The Garden Island newspaper on Monday. Explaining how the smart grid works can turn into a pretty in-depth conversation, but that doesn't mean it's hard to understand or that it's conspiratorial. For those who prefer simplicity, here's the 5-7-5 version.

Let them do their job

Smart meters do what?
Measure electricity?
Oh, that’s what they’re for.

Burning down the house

Smart meters cause fires?
No, poor wiring causes fires.
Power 101.

Why baseload is so big

It’s frickin’ hot out!
Everyone cranks the A/C.
Gotta have power.

Demand response, part one

Someone needs extra
Borrow from ova’ dea
No need burn more oil.

Demand response, part two

Clouds wen’ block the sun?
Then unplug things for a sec.
No need burn more oil.

Time-of-use rates: You choose

Cheap nights and weekends?
Rollover power minutes?
Plug-all-you-can-plug?

Jun 08
2012

Posted on in Energy News
It's Aloha Friday and World Ocean Day today! Let's celebrate with lots of aloha for the ocean. The ocean provides us so much: food, medicine, therapy, recreation, scenery. Seawater also serves as a natural, abundant source of power, in the form of endless waves and changing tides, and also by way of the coldness of its deep water. Here's an editorial that appeared in yesterday's Star-Advertiser that talks about why sea water air conditioning is an ideal energy solution for Honolulu:

As we consider strategies for kicking Hawaii’s 5-million-gallon-per-day oil habit, our tendency is to focus on alternative sources of fuel and electricity. We look to clean, renewable energy sources to replace dirty fossil-fuel power. We also look for ways to reduce the amount we use — and waste — through efficiency and conservation.

What we often overlook is that fuel and electricity are means to an end. Electricity is not what we really want. What we really want is light when it’s dark, hot water for a shower and a comfortable temperature indoors.

What if we could cut out the middle man and put an abundant natural resource to work in place of electricity?

Seawater air conditioning is an energy solution that does just that.

Air conditioning is a voracious consumer of electricity. On Oahu, more than 20 percent of the electricity sold is used just to cool buildings. Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning (HSWAC) has proposed a solution for downtown that precludes the need to cool water with electricity, one that could save more than 70 million kilowatt hours of power annually.

Applying the same technology that has been cooling buildings in Toronto, Stockholm and Amsterdam, the Honolulu SWAC team has proposed a district cooling system that will serve the downtown vicinity by 2014.

This fall, it will begin installing a pipeline four miles offshore Kakaako that will pump seawater from a depth of 1,700 feet to an onshore cooling station. There, the 44-degree water will pass through a heat exchanger that transfers the seawater’s coldness to a pipeline of freshwater that circulates in a closed loop. The chilled freshwater connects to downtown buildings’ existing air conditioning infrastructure, providing natural AC that doesn’t require large, electricity-hungry chillers in each building.

The seawater, slightly warmer than when it left the ocean, returns home through a diffuser at 330 to 425 feet — deep enough that no coral ecosystems are affected. The underwater pipe actually becomes an artificial reef, providing substrate to new coral and shelter to fish.

The Honolulu district cooling system has a capacity equivalent to 25,000 tons of ice, enough to cool some 40 buildings. Currently, more than 18,000 tons have been reserved for customers, including the First Hawaiian Center, Hawaiian Electric Co., One Waterfront Towers and the Finance Factors buildings. Those who have signed on recognize the savings they’ll reap thanks to the stabilization of long-term energy costs.

Electricity is versatile, but it is difficult and costly to make and store. The genius behind SWAC technology is that the cold seawater can chill buildings 24/7, much like solar water heaters provide hot showers even after the sun has set. The project’s seawater system design engineer, Makai Ocean Engineering, also designed the deep water pipes off Keahole Point that have successfully provided cooling for the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kona.

The district cooling system will generate an estimated $200 million in construction spending, creating more than 900 new construction jobs. Besides lowering greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 75,000 tons per year, it also will save 260 million gallons of potable water and reduce wastewater discharge by 84 million gallons a year.

On World Ocean Day, observed Friday, we appreciate how much the ocean directly improves our lives in so many ways: food, medication, therapy, recreation, scenery. Let’s also recognize its enormous potential in helping to meet our energy needs.

While researchers continue to work on ways to harness wave power and ocean thermal power, buildings in downtown Honolulu should readily convert to seawater air conditioning, a renewable energy solution that is practical and proven.

 

May 17
2012

Posted on in Energy Policy
hawaiicapitol.jpgThe 2012 legislative session ended May 3, with mixed results for clean energy. The main three key actions taken by the legislature with Blue Planet’s support were passage of the Hawaii Electricity Reliability Administrator and the interisland cable regulatory bill, and confirmation of Mike Champley and Lorraine Akiba to the Public Utilities Commission.

Hawaii Electricity Reliability Administrator (HERA)
The priority clean energy policy this session was SB 2787, which establishes the Hawai‘i Electricity Reliability Administrator, or HERA. As more independent power producers and distributed energy systems plug into the grid, they face numerous technical, operational, and regulatory issues presented by Hawai‘i's century-old electrical system. These obstacles hinder interconnection and compromise reliability, stifling the potential of renewable energy production. The HERA policy establishes formal, objective, and verifiable reliability and interconnection standards for Hawai‘i’s electricity grids. Having an independent entity—not the electric utility—
set the “rules of the road” for reliability and interconnection would enable increased integration
of renewables and greater system predictability and resiliency. Senate Bill 2787 passed 74-1-1.

Interisland Cable Regulatory Structure
Senate Bill 2785 establishes a regulatory structure for the installation and implementation of an interisland high-voltage electric transmission cable system, bringing it under the governance of the PUC. Having a regulatory framework for the implementation of an interisland cable system will ensure more certainty and oversight in the development process. Hawaii’s islands have varying amounts of technologically acquirable renewable energy resources and an uneven distribution of electricity demand based on population and economic activity. Maui, for example, has surplus wind energy at night, while Oahu has an expanding fleet of electric vehicles that could put that energy to work. Legislation to establish a regulatory framework for the implementation of an interisland cable system can provide more certainty, stability, and oversight in the development process. By providing structure for a statewide electrical grid we can get the most out of our state's abundant solar, wind, and geothermal energy resources. Senate Bill 2785 passed 67-9 (although 15 “with reservations”).  
 
Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Appointments
The Senate confirmed the nominations of both Michael Champley and Lorraine Akiba to the PUC. We believe both will be strong advocates for aggressive clean energy regulatory policy. Mike Champley served as Blue Planet’s expert consultant for two years. During his work with Blue Planet, Champley was instrumental in identifying and suggesting modifications to practices that impede the integration of renewable energy. Champley understands the complex economic, institutional, and operational changes that must happen to enable Hawai‘i’s clean energy transition. Lorraine Akiba will bring broad experience (in public and private law sectors) and energy to the PUC while balancing the skills and expertise of the existing commissioners.  
 
Other Legislative Issues
Unfortunately, we were unable to advance some other key issues this session. Policies that fell by the wayside included reallocation of the barrel tax (and expansion to include coal), renewable energy tax credit reform, and additional PUC policy guidance (related to curtailment provisions and variable rate of return for renewable integration).  

In particular, Blue Planet spent a good deal of effort in a measure to reform the renewable tax credit, largely in response to proposed bills that would have severely reduced the credit. The challenge has been the “success” of the existing 35% credit and the explosive growth of residential and commercial PV (as well as the utility-scale
wind). It’s estimated that the credit could cost the state budget upwards of $60 million this year and
much more in 2013.

Blue Planet took a couple of approaches to this threat. First, we asked former UH economist Thomas Loudat to analyze what the credit yields to the state in terms of job creation, income tax, GET, oil savings, and other ancillary benefits. An op-ed, co-authored by Jeff Mikulina and Thomas Loudat, was published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. We then worked on formulating a new incentive structure for the tax credit—one that converts most of the more substantial incentives from investment credits to production credits (rewarding the actual renewable kWh instead of the equipment cost). This also had the effect of spreading the credit over 10 years, reducing the one-year budget hit. We made some other changes as well, ratcheting back the residential and commercial PV from 35% to 20% over 3 years, eliminating the confusing “system” caps, and sunsetting the credit in 2018 (providing a predictable glide path for the industry). Although the tax credit reforms didn’t pass this session, we had good agreement among legislative leadership and most of the key players in the renewable energy industry, setting us up for next session.