Categorized | Elections, News

Abercrombie introduces energy platform


Calling the pursuit of energy independence “Hawaii’s most important economic enterprise right now,” Neil Abercrombie has unveiled a bold and ambitious plan to move Hawaii toward energy independence that includes creating an independent state agency focused entirely on energy policy.

Speaking at the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum at the Laniakea YWCA Friday afternoon, Abercrombie referenced a 1977 proposal by state Sen. T.C. Yim for a comprehensive energy program. In the 1977 plan, Yim wrote that 96 percent of Hawaii’s energy comes from imported oil. Abercrombie noted that 33 years later, Hawaii is still almost completely dependent on imported oil.

“For more than a generation in Hawaii, we have had a clear aspiration for Hawaii to become energy independent,” Abercrombie said. “We have made some good progress. In 1977, Hawaii had a plan to be energy independent by 2010. It is now 2010, and the annual cost of our oil imports has gone from $500 million to over $5 billion. We cannot let another 33 years pass us by. Now is the time for bold action.”

Abercrombie’s plan includes nine key points:

* Converting the State Energy Office into an independent Hawaii Energy Authority. This agency will have the sole mission of achieving Hawaii’s energy independence goals with regulatory authority to implement energy policy more swiftly. The Hawaii Energy Authority will be the lead government agency for conducting technical studies, overseeing reliability standards for the power grid, executing contracts with clean energy providers and overseeing programs. The Public Utilities Commission would revert back to its traditional function as a rate-setting agency.

* Implementing a system that allows independent power producers to sell directly to consumers. The Hawaii Energy Authority will establish rules and policies that enable “retail wheeling” to enable more clean energy onto the electric grid. For example, a wind farm that currently has no choice but to throw away excess energy, can sell power directly to a business to replace some of its carbon-based electricity.

* Providing incentives and access for everyday people to make their homes more energy efficient. The Abercrombie Administration will pass Property Assessment Clean Energy (PACE) bond financing to pay the upfront costs for energy efficient home improvements, such as installing solar panels. Many people lack the ability to pay for the costs upfront. Government can provide the funds using its bonding power, which will be paid back over time.

* Aligning the electric utility’s success with Hawaii’s clean energy goals. Government will accelerate the transition to clean energy by rewarding the utility for exceeding clean energy goals.

* Increasing the Public Benefits Fund for more aggressive efficiency programs. Currently, 1 percent of the expected annual utility revenues go in to the Public Benefits Fund, which primarily funds rebates on solar installation and energy efficient appliances. The Abercrombie Administration will increase the amount to 2 percent—about a dollar more per month for an average household—to fund programs that will lead to cost savings for Hawaii families.

* Making government green. Abercrombie will lead an effort to make government buildings, fleets and personnel practices leaders in energy conservation.

* Creating workforce development for good, green jobs. The state can access federal dollars to equip local engineers, business people, architects, plumbers, electricians, and others to build and run Hawaii’s clean energy economy. Abercrombie will also encourage the creation of public-private partnerships.

* Researching, expanding and deploying projects with clear community benefits. Abercrombie will work to develop projects in wind, solar, geothermal, ocean, biofuels and other emerging technologies. The state will create incentives for research, building on the work of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and attracting dollars to fuel more research and startup high-tech companies.

* Reducing our independence on fossil fuels for transportation. Abercrombie will support an accelerated transition to green fleets—electric, hybrid, and biofuel-powered vehicles. An Abercrombie Administration will also require a majority of the power for Honolulu’s rail transit project be generated by clean, local sources—the project should be built right and powered right.

Abercrombie emphasized his dedication and commitment to seeing these initiatives through.

“I will be a Governor committed to implementing these efforts and willing to take on these big challenges,” Abercrombie said. “The only way we get to energy independence is when we make this goal our collective mission, participate in our daily lives, pass and implement innovative policies, have open dialogues with communities and train our workforce to build and operate a clean energy economy. Clean energy will be the cornerstone of Hawaii’s economy for generations.”

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