Gov. pitches clean energy loan program

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Jan 23 2013 05:17:00 PM HST

Governor Neil Abercrombie has a new plan to help more people get solar power.

HONOLULU -

Photovoltaic panels can set you back thousands of dollars in upfront costs.

That's the stopping point for many people.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie thinks he has a way to make it more affordable.

“This program will allow consumers to take advantage now and pay for it over the long run, while having the immediate benefits," said Abercrombie in his state of the state address Tuesday.

Every month when consumers pay their electric bill, a portion goes into what's called a public benefits fund.

That pot of money goes to pay for clean energy rebates for efficient appliances and compact florescent light bulbs. 

The governor proposes tapping part of that to secure low- interest bonds to provide $100 million dollars in clean energy financing.

That's money customers can use to borrow to buy photovoltaic systems and then pay back the loan as part of their monthly bill.

The Sierra Club, which is suing the state over a move to limit solar credits, is embracing this new idea.

"The idea is good because it will pay for itself. There is no additional tax money, no additional government money and essentially the people who want to borrow the money will be able to do so if they have not been able to do it before," said Robert Harris.

The program is being structured to help homeowners, renters as well as non-profits groups.

"We think it works real well and in time it can play a bigger and bigger role," said Mark Glick, administrator of the state energy office.

Glick points to a new Omni track survey of residents released just last week.

It found 70 percent of residents said they would likely take advantage of low-interest green loans.

 "We are happy to see that clean energy was top of mind,” said Glick.

If the proposal gets legislative approval, Glick said the first loans could be issued in about 18 months.

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