Supporters of solar tax credit light up Capitol

Supporters of solar tax credit light up Capitol
Honolulu Star Advertiser - March 21, 2013
Alan Yonan

Proponents of solar energy rallied at the state Capitol Wednesday to show their support for a renewable energy tax credit program that lawmakers are proposing to scale back.

The leading bill in the Legislature addressing the issue (SB 623) calls for gradually reducing the size of the state’s renewable energy tax credit through the next five years from the current 35 percent. The bill was introduced by legislators concerned that the amount of tax revenue lost because of the credit was becoming a drain on the state’s finances.

While the Hawaii Solar Energy Association is willing to support a reduction in the credit, it wants to make sure the cuts don’t go too far, said Leslie Cole-Brooks, association executive director.

The amount of the proposed reductions has not yet been inserted into the bill. That will likely be decided in the final days of the legislative session. However, there has been talk of reducing the tax credit to as low as 15 percent by 2018, Cole-Brooks said. A credit that small would provide little incentive to consumers to invest in photovoltaic panels, she said.

The rally was intended to “bring awareness that the tax credits are an important issue facing the Legislature,” she said. “The tax credits are something that consumers can use to really take charge of their electric bills.”

The rally drew about 250 people, including employees and customers of solar energy companies, and members of nonprofit organizations, all wearing bright yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase, “Power to the People.”

Sen. Mike Gabbard (D, Kapolei-Makakilo), chairman of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, said the renewable energy tax credit has helped put Hawaii near the top nationally in terms of solar photovoltaic installations per capital.

“But all of this comes with a cost to state finances, and we need to find a balance,” Gabbard told the crowd. “So let’s keep working together and get it done this session.”