Lawmakers wimp out on energy initiatives
Governor Lingle's aggressive proposals fell on deaf legislative ears.
WHERE the Army makes big strides in paring reliance on utility companies to power its housing projects, Hawaii lawmakers take mincing steps that do little to cut back on the state's fossil-fuel dependence.
At the start of the legislative session, Governor Lingle proposed ambitious measures to boost renewable energy production, improve energy efficiency in state and private facilities, develop alternative transportation fuels, establish Hawaii as a leader in hydrogen technology and increase accountability of utility companies.
What has emerged from the Legislature is a round of deferrals that continues to restrain economic development and burden consumers with some of the highest electricity costs in the nation.
Lingle wanted to end the practice of the utilities automatically passing on to customers increases in the cost of oil, arguing that without bearing any of the load, there was little incentive to seek alternative fuels. Lawmakers decided that the Public Utilities Commission should review the idea.
Legislators also chose to have the PUC merely consider a new agency to manage the millions of dollars utility companies collect in energy-efficiency surcharges that largely go unused and cut down efficiency upgrades for state buildings to a solar pilot program for one school on each island.
In contrast, the Army, with its housing partner, is investing in photovoltaic solar cells to produce nearly 30 percent of electricity needs for more than 7,800 new and renovated homes through the next 10 years.
Hawaii needs bold initiatives to reduce a fossil-fuel habit that has the state almost fully reliant on oil and coal, but timid legislators took a pass.
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