Tuesday, April 19, 2011


UP ON THE ROOF: They say that with age comes wisdom but the real trick may be in getting to be old enough so that others see that what appeared to be a good idea 10 or 15 years ago actually was.

When solar hot water heaters were becoming ubiquitous- back before passage of the Gary Hooser legacy bill requiring new homes to be built with them- we had wondered why utilities shouldn't make it easy to help people finance not just rooftop solar hot water but solar electricity units with zero percent loans that are collected each month to be paid off with the savings the customer was realizing in the billing period.

We assumed that it was opposition from the utilities that was blocking it because, despite lip service to conservation and alternative energy, each was stuck in "we sell electricity to you" paradigm where the more electricity they sold the bigger the profit.

So we went to the State House Energy Committee Chair Mina Morita and asked what it would take would move the legislature off the dime and get them to pass enabling legislation despite the opposition from electric companies.

We assumed that the handful of providers of solar systems would be a good place to start since they could provide the resources to begin the fight.

But shockingly we found out that the main stumbling block was those self-same companies.

Seems that there were only a couple of them at the time and they had all the business they could handle, thank you very much, and they worried that if the government provided for a massive program it would bring oodles of competition into the market, cutting their monopoly into a million little pieces.

Cut to today and amazingly enough, there are plenty solar companies and so House Bill 1520 SD2 has reached a conference committee and appears to be poised for passage despite opposition from- you guessed it- the utility companies.

The bill, introduced by Morita before she left to head the Public Utilities Commission,

Directs the public utilities commission to consider implementing an on-bill financing program for residential electric utility customers to finance purchases of energy efficient or renewable energy devices and systems through their regular electric utility bills.

According to a Sierra Club's Capitol Watch email "Blue Planet Foundation is holding a rally to promote House Bill 1520 SD2 today at the capitol from 12:30-1 p.m."

Although testimony is no longer being taken at this point in the legislative session it couldn't hurt to drop an email of support to representatives (reps@capitol.hawaii.gov) and senators sens@capitol.hawaii.gov) urging their support for this long overdue measure that would start the ball rolling to decentralize carbon-free electricity distribution.

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