By Nina Wu
The Blue Planet Foundation is mobilizing the youth of Hawaii for a clean energy rally at the state Capitol from 12:30 to 1 p.m. today. Some 250 students are expected to start sign-waving on Beretania Street at 10:30 a.m.
Students from elementary school to college statewide are voicing their support of House Bill 1520, which establishes "on-bill financing" for the purchase of solar water heaters and solar photovoltaic systems. Students from neighbor isles who can't be on Oahu are chiming in via hawaiivoice.org.
As the bill is written now, HB1520 "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."
The whole idea is to make solar systems more accessible to people who can't foot the upfront costs of, say, a $30,000 solar PV system.
Investing in solar makes a lot of sense. But many folks just don't have that kind of money to fork over right away, even though federal and state tax credits are available.
Authors of the bill believe that "on-bill financing" will make it simple for consumers.
The customer who participates in the program would pay for their solar water heater or solar PV system over time on their monthly electricity bill, which would appear as a financing charge. Since they'll be saving money with solar, the amount saved would go towards paying for the system.
Supposedly, if you sold your home, you would transfer over the system and monthly payments to the new owner, though realtors have some concerns over how this is done.
I like the idea.
I would think it all evens out, with the customer paying the same bill, but at least with some of it going towards ownership of your solar system (and your source of electricity) — sort of like paying off a mortgage versus paying rent.
Blue Planet's "real life" example shows a family actually paying less per month —a total of $187 — which is $18 less than the previous bill of $205 (the average Hawaii household bill) because of energy cost reductions.
Looks like most people support the intent of the bill, but not all agree on how it should be funded or administered.
Blue Planet said partnering financial institutions could pay for the upfront costs of solar systems, while administrative costs of running the program could be footed by the state's public benefits fee.
Other states, including California, Connecticut, Michigan, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire have implemented on-bill financing, according to Blue Planet.
The bill is timely, given that gas in Hawaii is pushing $4 a gallon, above the national average. Our HECO bills are going up as well. The Aloha State is the most oil-dependent state in the nation, with 95 percent of Hawaii's power coming from imported fossil fuels.
However the bill gets ironed out, it's nice to see activism among Hawaii's youth instead of apathy.
For more Earth Day events, click here. There are beach clean-ups, films about sustainability, and workshops coming up this week.