efficiency as a business: on sustainable energy utilities

oregon energy trust as SEU

Halfway through composing this post on sustainable energy utility (SEU) initiatives popping up in Vermont and Oregon, it began to look like Hawaii had already launched something similar…Or did we?

Here's the deal: you pay, say, 3% on top of your electricity bill to fund an SEU whose business is to save (not sell) you energy by offering free energy audits and technical advice, low-cost financing, and discounts on energy efficient products (via IEEEspectrum).

The point is to get this business out of that other business, and this approach helped Vermont become the first state to reduce energy demand through efficiency measures alone.

According to the IEEE story, Delaware is poised to join the ranks of states that operate efficiency utilities, but with much more ambitious goals. Its SEU, expected to be operational this summer, will oversee perhaps the most comprehensive energy savings and distributed renewables program in the United States. The SEU will be charged with reducing energy use from all fuels in Delaware by 30 percent by 2015—a third in homes, a third in businesses, and a third in the transportation sector.

Turns out, a series of bills have been passed and signed since 2005 that seem to call for something like this...yet I can't for the life of me figure out exactly what the law now says and where we are in implementation.

According to these policy summaries from Pew and EPA, Hawaii did enact a provision for establishing a fee-based Public Benefit Fund (PBF) for energy efficiency. And, we did create the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at UH.

Yet, as of last November, HNEI reports no funds have been appropriated for the "energy systems development special fund" created by HB1003 for development of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies. Nor is there any evidence of a PBF at the PUC.

Looks like Hawaii pulled another "let's make it look like we're doing something" trick here. Approve the concept, create a new program at UH, and fail to fund it. You know the drill.

Henry Curtis says we still need an SEU...it's #4 on Life of the Land's 10-point energy plan for Hawaii.

Before I go spend more time on this, I'm curious whether a push in this direction could help our households and businesses get on the efficiency train sooner. Fact is, the uptake on KIUC's efficiency outreach is only now starting to grow.

Is it too late to work this through the political sphere? Do we have time to wait for these policies to fall into place...and get funded?

Or should we pile on down to KIUC and swamp their staff with our requests for immediate assistance in dramatically reducing our energy use.

On the one hand, we know this is the only way to cut our electric bills in the short-term.

On the other hand, this looks a lot like the opposite of inertia...and that's hard to break...unless we're in a crisis...

Published by Ken on July 17th, 2008 tagged Energy, HI-specific

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