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Hawaii Gov. Lingle signs 3 clean energy bills

Jun 27, 2009 - The Associated Press

HONOLULU - Three measures aimed at increasing the state's reliance on solar, wind and other clean energy sources are now law.

The legislation was signed by Gov. Linda Lingle, who along with clean energy enthusiasts contend they will reduce the state's dependence on foreign oil.

"These new laws will help free Hawaii from the grip of our foreign oil addiction," said Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, a Honolulu-based nonprofit whose goal is to support clean energy initiatives.

One measure, HB 1464, requires Hawaii's electric utilities to generate at least a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, and 40 percent by 2030.

The new standards "will send a clear policy and market signal that Hawaii is serious about transforming to clean energy and that the established utilities are on notice to facilitate that preferred future," according to Blue Planet.

In addition, the law directs the state to enact standards so energy consumption drops by 30 percent by 2030, and requires property owners to disclose the cost of electricity for a recent three-month period before selling their homes.

A second new statute, SB 1202, mandates the placement of electric car charging stations in parking lots. One percent of parking spaces in most parking lots must be dedicated for electric vehicles by December 31, 2011. The requirement will rise by an additional 1 percent for each additional 5,000 registered electric vehicles.

The third law, SB 464, is intended to attract more private investment in renewable energy.

Advocates are urging Lingle to sign another bill, HB 1271, that would impose a per barrel tax on distributors of petroleum to finance clean energy initiatives.

The measure would raise the levy from 5 cents to $1.05, generate $31 million annually and expand use of the revenues to include clean energy projects and food safety programs. It could cost consumers 2 to 3 cents more per gallon of gasoline.

The current per-barrel "environmental response tax" was established in 1993 and applies to petroleum products sold by distributors to retail dealers and most end users. Receipts are used for oil-spill prevention, county used-oil recycling programs, energy security and environmental protection.

Lingle has repeatedly stated opposition to broad tax increases, though she has not staked a position on the barrel tax bill. She has until Tuesday to declare if she will veto the bill.

The measure was backed by a wide margin in the Legislature, suggesting supporters may be able to muster enough votes to override her veto.