PUC suspends Hawaiian Electric's rushed solar financing proposal
For Immediate Release
February 2, 2011
CONTACT: Jeff Mikuina, 808-226-4987
PUC SUSPends hawaiian electric's rushed solar financing proposal
COMMISSION OPTS IN FAVOR OF A BROADER, MORE COST-EFFECTIVE ON-BILL PROGRAM
HONOLULU—On Tuesday, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ruled to suspend the "Simply Solar" proposal recently submitted by the Hawaiian Electric utility companies. The proposal—which surprised many observers because of its timing—sought PUC approval within sixty days for a $55 million, narrow on-bill repayment program for solar water heaters.
The Commission concluded that the “Simply Solar” program “amounts to a pilot on-bill financing program” and specified that the program’s costs “do not appear to be cost effective to ratepayers, requiring adjustment.” Designating it a “subset” of the current on-bill financing review in progress, the Commission did not reject the Simply Solar program but instead ordered that it be considered as a potential “interim option” as part of the examination of a broader, more cost-effective statewide on-bill repayment program for Hawai‘i in an already opened PUC regulatory proceeding.
“Blue Planet strongly supports on-bill repayment that enables more residents and businesses to enjoy the benefits of solar and efficiency,” said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, which has played a lead role in the development of a comprehensive and well-designed, statewide, on-bill financing program. “The Commission made the right decision in this case, providing for expert and stakeholder review to make sure that this program is done right.”
A number of organizations working on the on-bill financing program raised questions about the precipitate proposal from the utility. The State Consumer Advocate expressed concerns about the proposal’s “reasonableness.”
"We appreciate the intent of the utility’s proposal and remain confident that the Simply Solar program can be developed into an effective program that maximizes both cost and energy savings,” Mikulina continued.
On-bill financing—which eliminates the up-front cost of solar or efficiency—is a powerful tool to increase adoption of energy efficiency and solar. On-bill works by removing two major hurdles to investing in solar and efficiency: cost and complexity. The clean energy investments are paid off directly through the savings on the electricity bill over time, and the process for adopting clean energy is streamlined.
The ongoing consideration of a comprehensive on-bill financing program is the result of a 2011 legislative measure that received strong support from the Administration as part of a vocal commitment to the state’s aggressive clean energy clean energy goals.
“The Commission’s decision underscores the Administration’s commitment to effecting real, substantive change that will accelerate our progress toward energy independence,” Mikulina added. “An intelligent, carefully developed on-bill program will create a robust marketplace for the clean energy industry and lenders, providing economic relief to residents, providing jobs, and reducing carbon pollution.”
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