‘First’ in solar-heater mandate is reason for pride in Hawaii
The governor has signed into law a bill requiring developers to install solar water heaters in new homes.
The 50th state is the first in the nation to require solar water heaters to be installed on new single-family homes, which certainly would seem logical to the rest of the country.
In fact, residents of the other 49 would have reason to ask why the state with such plentiful sunshine took so long to adopt the renewable resource for a basic advantage.
It's not for lack of trying. Lawmakers have entertained the idea for five years since Kauai Sen. Gary Hooser first introduced legislation. Environmental organizations, principally the Sierra Club of Hawaii, have been lobbying long and hard at the state Capitol to get enough support, tweaking and amending the measure to win acceptance.
But at least some of the success of the bill, which Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law this week, is due to the economics of oil. When Hooser proposed the bill, oil was selling at $40 a barrel. On Friday afternoon, a barrel traded at an incredible $142.
With Hawaii owning the dubious national distinction of paying the most for electricity -- with the ever-soaring fuel surcharges making up nearly half of the tab -- using the sun to heat water makes sense. Solar devices will cut an estimated $40 to $60 in power costs for a family of four or about 30 percent of a homeowner's monthly bill.
Not everyone is pleased, however. The Building Industry Association of Hawaii, representing developers and contractors, complained the law will increase home prices, but buyers will recoup the difference within a few years and save in the long run because electricity costs will continue to go up. Some smart homebuilders, recognizing consumers' desire for renewable energy systems, already include solar water heaters on their residential units.
Gov. Lingle believes the new law will eliminate state tax credits for older homes, but the bill clearly states that homes that were issued building permits -- which were necessary to put up the houses -- before January 2010, when the law takes effect, can still claim the credit.
Solar water heaters make sense for the island and for the environment. Hawaii should be proud of leading the way.
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