Ending Our Dependence On Costly Imported Oil
The future success of Hawaii’s economy relies on stable prices for energy, transportation, and commodities shipped into our state daily. However, Hawaii relies on imported oil, primarily from Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Indonesia and China for more than 90% of our energy needs, which drives up prices for everything. We need to end this addiction if we are going to make sure transportation and electricity remain affordable into the future as the price of oil skyrockets and becomes increasingly more volatile. The cost of renewable energy such as solar, wind, wave and geothermal is stable, and will remain constant no matter how expensive oil gets. The State has already launched the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, a project with a goal of making Hawaii’s energy use 70% renewable by 2030. Clean energy is a goal we must embrace, and we need to muster the political will to make it a reality. Our economy and our future depend on it.
While we passed many good bills to allow more homeowners to install solar photovoltaic panels, streamlined regulation to allow an easier transition to renewable energy, and funded the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, recently there were two important bills which could have made Hawaii a world leader in renewable energy that will be up again this year.
Fossil Fuel Power Plant Ban
Senate Bill 1671 bans the construction of any large new fossil fuel power plants in Hawaii. Our resources should be invested in renewable energy production, rather than extending our dependence on imported oil or coal. Hawaiian Electric Company already has no real plans to build any new large power plants anytime soon, so this measure will formally seal our commitment to ensuring broader distributed generation (solar, wind on your home) for everyone. It is important because Hawaii will soon reach the first big hurdle in its conversion to a new energy grid – the ability for existing electrical grids to accept volatile renewable energy. Solar and wind power are only as strong as the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, but power consumption is constant. Major infrastructure changes need to be made to our existing electrical grid to accommodate large scale distributed generation of energy beyond about 15 or 20% of the current load. Instead of investing money in simply building new power plants in the future, we need to make sure that investment is made into an electrical grid that can accept more renewable energy from individual homes.
Renewable Energy For Every Home
House Bill 2643 creates a new program called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) The biggest hurdle to installing solar panels or other expensive renewable energy systems on homes is the up-front cost of installation. This bill would allow the state to pay for and install solar panels for homeowners, who would then pay down the cost over time through a simple added assessment on their property taxes. This would open the door to solar energy for the masses, who otherwise could not afford it. The Harvard Business Review called PACE bond financing one of the “top ten breakthrough ideas for 2010,” and explained, “As opt-in solutions, they raise taxes only for property owners who choose to take loans. Other constituents’ pocketbooks are unaffected…what politician would not want to lay claim to a program that increased property values, lowered monthly utility costs, and created jobs?”
I look forward to returning to these two critical ideas when the Legislature reconvenes next year, reduce our local energy costs, and make Hawaii a world leader in renewable energy and a model for the rest of the nation.