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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2010

Don't give up fight for clean energy loans

For clean energy advocates, it's one step forward, two steps back.

A promising proposal to help property owners take out loans to buy clean energy systems appears all but dead for this session of the Legislature. Lobbying by the counties and bankers effectively scared off lawmakers like House Speaker Calvin Say, who echoed industry fears that aspects of the plan "may jeopardize housing."

Well, that's a bit hysterical.

Hawai'i will never wean itself from its dependence on fossil fuels without the widespread adoption of clean energy solutions. That means lots of homes and businesses bristling with solar panels and energy-efficient design improvements. House Bill 2643 would have advanced this goal by providing state-financed loans to property owners thereby eliminating prohibitive up-front costs and allowing repayment through assessments on their county property tax bills. It would give energy-conscious consumers a relatively painless option for going seriously green.

The complaints from the bill's critics are predictable and self-interested. Instead of talking about ways to make the innovative plan work, they're offering every excuse for why it can't.

The loans would be secured just like a mortgage, and lenders don't like to compete with other lien holders to get paid if the homeowner defaults. Counties, which collect property taxes, complain about the costs of administering the program.

These should not be insurmountable obstacles. The Lingle administration has offered to help remove them, and should be given the chance to try.

It would be short-sighted and foolish to abandon what could be a major breakthrough in adopting clean-energy systems, not to mention the economic boost from expanding the market. Lawmakers should revisit the bill and adopt it. Failing that, they should make the proposal a top priority for next session. If clean energy is Hawai'i's future, it's time we started making the hard decisions to get us there.