Why Hawaii continues to be the best state for photovoltaic solar
And why pv solar will matter to more and more state residents
Hawaii has long been considered one of the best markets for photovoltaic solar in the United States, given our generous state and federal tax rebates. Last month Governor Neil Abercrombie just made it easier for state residents to invest in photovoltaic solar in Hawaii with Senate Bill 1087.
Senate Bill 1087 authorizes the Hawaii State Energy Office to create a green infrastructure financing program, enabling property owners and renters alike to invest in energy saving improvements. Central to the program is the use of on-bill financing, which removes the up front financial costs of energy improvements.
Hawaii residents know the state is ideal for photovoltaic solar. Ample sunshine and the highest utility rates in the nation ($0.37 per kilowatt-hour), should be reason enough, but as Hawaii uses imported oil for 75% of its electricity needs, utility rates will no doubt continue to climb exponentially. Runner up Alaska, has the 2nd highest utility rates at ($0.185/kWh).
State residents pay $203 for an average monthly utility bill [PDF], again the highest in the nation, (Alaska is once again 2nd at $114.42) making installing PV solar less than the cost of grid electricity without the incentives—an economic first in the United States [ILSR Study].
Given all of the combined factors of abundant sunshine, high utility costs and generous state and federal solar tax incentives, it's easy to understand why Hawaii is No. 3 nationally for cumulative U.S. Grid-Connected Solar PV Capacity. It's interesting to note that nationwide in 2010 there's 10 times more photovoltaic solar capacity than in 2007; and in the first three months of 2013 solar power 'accounted for nearly half of the new electricity generating capacity in the United States.'
Senate Bill 1087's intent is to create a level energy playing field by incentivizing energy efficiency upgrades for low-income families and renters. As 40% of state residents are renters, they may now be able to install energy saving upgrades such as solar thermal and PV solar systems without any upfront costs.
Energy upgrades would be financed with loans paid back per line item on the utility customer's month utility bill. If the property is sold, that same loan will stay connected with the energy meter, and would be continued to be paid off by the new tenants or owners.
Once the on-bill financing program launches sometime in 2014, residents will be able to hire certified energy contractors to install energy saving devices such as solar panels and solar thermal. These individual projects and installations will be funded by those that have purchased state-issued bonds. Bond-holders are then repaid by the monthly utility payments from participating residents. The Blue Planet Foundation has created a flowchart PDF explaining how the on-bill financing will work.