June 20, 2014

State Regulators Implementing 'Hawaii Energy Bill Saver Program'

Hawaii regulators have begun the process to implement a program that may help more isle residents install solar energy systems by financing the heavy up-front costs through their electric bills, according to a public filing on Wednesday.

The on-bill financing program is known as the “Hawaii Energy Bill Saver Program."

The program, which stems from Act 204, provides two options to make renewable energy systems and energy efficient devices available to underserved markets through the use of a customer’s electricity bill, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission said.

The first option allows a utility customer to install a renewable energy system or energy efficient device, which will be paid for through a tariff assessment that is placed on their account.

The customer would not actually own the system or device. Instead, a third party would own the system or device and hold responsibility for maintenance and insurance with the customer essentially “renting” it.

The second option allows a customer to install a system or device through a market- and finance-based product that allows for payment of the product by using the customer’s electric bill for the purpose of billing and collection.

Under this option, ownership and maintenance as well as insurance responsibilities for the systems or devices remains with the person or entity paying for the products.

In July 2011, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law House Bill 1520 as Act 204, which directs the PUC to investigate an on-bill financing program for electric utility customers to buy or acquire a renewable energy system or energy-efficient device through an assessment on the customer’s bill.

The main focus of the program is to make such systems and devices available to underserved markets, including the rental market, by overcoming the barrier of upfront costs.

About a year ago, the PUC released a report from its consultant, Harcourt, Brown & Cary,which concluded that the program makes sense for Hawaii.

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