States Tackle Energy in 2009
Volume 4: Hawaii's Energy Efficiency and Independence Initiatives

In 2009, legislation considered in Hawaii's legislature reflected a major focus on energy efficiency and energy independence. If enacted, the bills from this session would help Hawaii become one of the most energy-efficient states. Hawaii’s approach to this goal was multifaceted: through broad policy approaches, focusing on buildings, offering new funding sources, getting more renewable energy into the state’s fuel mix, increasing appliance efficiency and developing new government task forces and consumer education efforts. Although Hawaii's session is now closed, the majority of the bills from the 2009 session are still pending and will carryover into the 2010 session. In this document, if legislation is not specified as enacted, it is pending and will carryover into Hawaii's 2010 session

Broad Policy Approaches

In the 2009 session, Hawaii considered multiple bills that would establish energy efficiency portfolio standards and an energy efficiency plan for the use of public benefits funds. In addition, one bill directs American Reinvestment and Recovery (ARRA) funds to be used for drinking water, renewable energy, climate protection and energy efficiency projects. Another bill appropriates ARRA funds to develop and retain the highly skilled and well-trained green collar workforce needed by Hawaii's emerging green economy sector.

Initiatives Focusing on Hawaii's Buildings

A large portion of Hawaii's introduced legislation comprised initiatives that focused on expedited permitting for energy efficient buildings. Two pieces of legislation focus on requiring expedited processing of an application for state and county projects that incorporate energy and environmental design building standards, it also deems the application approved if no decision is made within 180. Another initiative requires expedited building permits for installation of solar photovoltaic systems on residential, commercial or state buildings.

Another popular trend in Hawaii's legislation was permitting and requiring installation of energy efficient or renewable energy devices into various buildings. Two initiatives focus on allowing condominium boards to install or allow solar or wind energy devices on the common elements of condominiums. Four other pieces of legislation focus on solar water heater systems in residential buildings. The first requires the installation of solar water heater systems in new residential developments with six or more single-family units. The second requires all new development projects with over 50 units to install solar water heater systems. The third requires the public housing authority to install solar water heating systems in public housing units over a five-year period, and makes appropriations for it. The fourth requires existing single-family homes to be retrofitted with a solar water heater system by a specific date, homeowners that have not retrofitted their homes by this date could be charged a fee for non-compliance. Furthermore, one initiative removes the restriction on the income tax credit for solar thermal energy systems installed in single-family residences.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy in many aspects of building construction was another trend. One initiative mandates the use of cool roofs on all new residential and commercial construction in Hawaii beginning in 2011. Another piece of legislation requires all new state building and facility projects which start after January 1st, 2010, to have no less than 10% of their electricity usage supplied by renewable energy. Two pieces of introduced legislation focus on building codes. One directs the energy resources coordinator to review energy efficiency in building construction and recommend amendments to county and state building codes. The other initiative directs the state building code council to establish standards and criteria allowing the use of bamboo (a highly renewable and sustainable product) as an accepted construction material.

Funding for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

In 2009, Hawaii introduced numerous bills that discussed types of funding such as tax credits, incentives, bonds and loans for various entities promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Tax Credits

Tax credits were a popular trend in this area. There were ten pieces of legislation that discussed different types of tax credits in order to encourage energy efficiency. One initiative makes a tax credit applicable for solar thermal energy systems regardless of when a building permit was issued. Another initiative promotes and encourages the use of renewable energy systems by allowing the income tax credits from photovoltaic energy systems that are purchased, installed, and placed in service in the state during the taxable year to be transferred and sold at a discount to another taxpayer. Two pieces of legislation remove restrictions on income tax credits: one removes the restriction on the state income tax credit for single-family residential property solar thermal energy systems installed after Jan. 1, 2010. In addition, one bill raises the maximum allowable tax credit on photovoltaic energy systems installed on single-family residential properties to $40,000 and establishes a non-refundable tax credit for the manufacture of renewable energy technology devices. Also, one bill exempts from the general excise tax all equipment used directly in the generation of electricity using fuel cells, hydrogen, biomass, wind, the sun, the ocean, geothermal energy, waste heat, hydroelectric power or landfill gas. Last, there were three similar initiatives that give tax credits to individuals or corporations for the installation of solar thermal, wind-powered or photovoltaic energy systems on single family, multi family or commercial properties.


In 2009, Hawaii enacted three initiatives which focus on special purpose revenue bonds. One bill authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds to Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning, LLC for the purpose of design and construction of a seawater air conditioning district cooling system in downtown Honolulu. The second bill authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds to assist BioEnergy Hawaii, LLC with the establishment of a cogeneration facility and related energy production facilities. The third initiative authorizes the issuance of special purpose revenue bonds to assist Sopogy Inc. with planning, designing, constructing, equipping and operating a solar farm power plant at the Natural Energy Laboratory in Hawaii.

Furthermore, one introduced piece of legislation establishes the Renewable Energy Technology Systems Loan Program to provide loans to homeowners in order to purchase and install renewable energy technology systems that will be secured by the property upon which the system is installed, and repaid using the savings realized from the use of the renewable energy technology system.

Getting More Renewable Energy in the Mix

Support for increased use of renewable energy and decreased use of fossil fuel in Hawaii was a theme repeated in many pieces of legislation. Two bills promote the idea of “70% by 2030”, establishing initiatives necessary to achieve a goal of 70 percent non-petroleum energy sources by the year 2030. Another bill states that non-fossil fuel transportation is a state policy goal and requires state and county agencies to follow a priority list when purchasing energy-efficient vehicles. Another initiative requires the consumer advocate to advocate for the increased use of renewable energy sources in the provision of public utilities. Furthermore, Hawaii has an initiative to improve its economic and energy security position by establishing a preference for locally produced alcohol fuels.

Energy Efficiency for Appliances

In 2009, Hawaii introduced several initiatives to help improve the energy efficiency of household appliances. The first bill directs the public benefits fee administrator to develop and implement a program to encourage residential retail electricity customers to replace inefficient household appliances with Energy Star appliances. The public benefits fee is a surcharge in Hawaii to collect funds that will be used to pay for future energy-efficiency programs, including customer incentives such as rebates, to reduce electricity consumption. The other initiative directs the Department of Business, Economic, Development and Tourism to adopt rules pertaining to appliance efficiency that are consistent with the California Appliance Efficiency Regulations and prohibiting the sale of appliances in the State after January 1, 2011 that do not meet these standards.

Task Forces and Consumer Education

Hawaii also introduced legislation which encouraged efficiency and renewable energy sources through new administrative and educational approaches in its 2009 legislation. There are two initiatives that establish departments in order to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. The first initiative establishes a renewable energy section in the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to coordinate and promote renewable energy initiatives and support energy diversification. The second initiative establishes a task force to identify obstacles to the use of alternative or renewable energy systems on state historic buildings. Another initiative requests the legislative bureau to study the effects of adopting observance of daylight savings time in Hawaii, with the goal of saving energy .

Two pieces of introduced legislation educate consumers on energy efficiency. One requires the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs in state buildings and a public education campaign to promote private use of compact fluorescent light bulbs and light-emitting diode lighting products. The other piece of legislation directs the public utilities commission to establish a consumer information program on energy efficient properties.