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.
· 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!
In other news...