JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Officials say the alarming rise in electricity costs at the state Capitol may be due in large part to air conditioning escaping through doors left open at various offices. CLICK FOR LARGE
Gov wants more energy funds
Electric bill for state increases by $626,000
State officials have received shocking news: They need an additional $626,000 to pay their rising electric bills.
The emergency appropriation is moving through the state Legislature and yesterday won tentative approval from the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Department of Accounting and General Services officials say that if the emergency appropriation isn't passed, the state "is expect to run out of electricity money in May and will incur late payment interest charges."
Here are the numbers from DAGS:
State buildings, excluding Department of Education and University of Hawaii in fiscal 2005 had monthly electricity charges of $460,000. The charge rose to a monthly average of $572,000 in fiscal 2006. In fiscal 2007, the monthly average is $614,000.
Rising energy costs are forcing the state to ask the Legislature for more money to pay its electric bill.
Gov. Linda Lingle sent the Legislature a request for an emergency appropriation of $626,000, which she said was needed because of "budgetary shortfalls in electricity payments."
The state's monthly electricity bill for buildings operated by the Department of Accounting and General services have increased 33 percent since fiscal 2005, going from $460,000 a month to $614,000.
Russ Saito, state comptroller, told the Ways and Means Committee yesterday that the money is needed as soon as possible.
"If an emergency appropriation is not provided the program is expected to run out of electricity money in May of 2007 and will incur late payment interest charges," he said.
Saito added that while DAGS notes that the international price of oil is unpredictable and fluctuates, prices for a barrel of oil are expected to rise.
"We have cut back, we have relamped (using energy efficient light bulbs) and we are doing energy audits across the state," he said in an interview after the committee meeting.
Last year, Lingle and the Legislature agreed on a new program of energy conservation that included studying ways for the state to use more energy efficient building materials and insulation, but Saito said the biggest energy user in state buildings is air conditioning.
Looking around the state Capitol, Saito pointed to the many legislators with open office doors.
"We have a lot of leaky old buildings, but our figures show that consumption has not gone up, it is the oil prices that have gone up," Saito said.
Cooled air leaks out of buildings with jalousie windows and the air is heated in offices with large expanses of glass, Saito, an engineer, said.
"Cooling the Capitol is a classic problem, it is one of our most challenging buildings to cool," Saito said.
Peter Rosegg, a Hawaiian Electric spokesman, said the state has had an "aggressive energy conservation and efficiency program."
"They are retrofitting some of the old buildings, but the stock of state buildings is very dated," Rosegg said.
"We have had discussions with DAGS and they are looking at our energy conservation programs," Rosegg added.
Rep. Hermina Morita, chairwoman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection committee, said she has been trying to steer the state toward more energy efficient building practices for five years, but has only had success after Gov. Lingle called for energy efficiency as a state policy.
"The governor released $5 million for photo voltaic school buildings and also approved the net energy metering bill," Morita (D, Hanalei-Kapaa) said.
The state also is now required to consider the energy saving rating when it buys new equipment.