Bills to watch: Top Hawaii energy issues in 2015

Pacific Business News - January 27, 2015
Duane Shimogawa

Hawaii's energy sector will get a lot of attention during this year's legislative session.

From NextEra Energy's planned acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Co. to adding monetary penalties to the law requiring owners of parking lots that offer public parking stalls to provide electric vehicle charging stations, there will be lots to talk about at the state Capitol regarding this key industry.

State Sen. Mike Gabbard, D-Kapolei-Makakilo-Ewa, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment, told PBN that key energy bills he has or is introducing include community-based renewables, energy-storage tax credits and the barrel tax, the tax on every barrel of imported oil that comes into the state.

In terms of community-based renewables, he said he is 100 percent behind getting a bill concerning this passed this session.

"This is a no-brainer that would help all the renters and those without roof space to hui up on a piece of off-site land, buy as many solar panels as they like, and get a credit on their electricity bill," Gabbard said. "What's not to like?"

Gabbard also plans to sponsor a bill to establish a tax credit for advanced energy storage for rooftop solar energy systems and utility-scale projects up to 3 megawatts that serve as "beneficial to modernizing our grid and help to integrate renewable energy onto the grid."

Senate Bill 358 looks at reallocating the funding from the barrel tax that's now going to the general fund and giving it to energy, agriculture, and emergency response.

"The original purpose of increasing the tax to $1.05 in 2010 was to move us forward on energy and food security and these additional funds would help us accomplish those goals," Gabbard said. "The bill will also apply the tax to fossil fuels, including coal and natural gas."