Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Enphase ok for Ontario


The microinverter company Enphase Energy announced a new microinverter for the Ontario, Canada market this week. This new product will fulfill the domestic content requirement and will therefore enable installers to participate in the Ontario Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) program.
The Enphase production line will have a capacity of 100 MW (500,000 microinverters) in the first year. The company plans to double this capacity to one million microinverters to support expected demand in 2011.
Enphase, like many other companies, have been working to ensure their products qualify for the program, which requires 60% of materials and labor for installations to come from the province.
The Enphase production line will have a capacity of 100 MW (500,000 microinverters) in the first year. The company plans to double this capacity to one million microinverters to support expected demand in 2011.

In other news, Enhpase also announced that it has secured $40 million in funding, with Bay Partners leading the equity financing. This round of financing also includes participation from Horizon Technology Finance, Bridge Bank and existing investors Third Point Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners, Madrone Capital Partners and Applied Ventures LLC.
Recognized as the fastest growing inverter company in the U.S. in 2009, Enphase Energy continues to outperform the market having sold more than a quarter million microinverters since launch.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nissan Electric Car $25,000


nissan_leaf.top.jpg

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Nissan announced Tuesday that its Leaf electric car will come with a sticker price of $32,780. But after a federal tax credit of $7,500, the car will only set you back about $25,280.

That would make the Leaf considerably less expensive than General Motors' Chevrolet Volt, which is expected to cost around $40,000, or about $32,500 after the federal tax credit.


The Leaf expected to go on sale in December, one month after the Volt.

By keeping the sticker price low, the Leaf will be profitable for Nissan, said Mark Perry, Nissan's director of product planning. That means customers should expect more variants of the Leaf in coming years, he added.

Nissan has already said that there will be a luxury Infiniti version of the car.

Industry analysts have frequently said that electric cars would not be profitable for years to come because of the high costs associated with the vehicles batteries.

"We've been working in lithium ion batteries for 17 years," Perry said. "So all that advanced research and engineering work we've [already] paid for."

The Leaf and Volt are not quite directly competitive, although both are electric cars. The Leaf is an all-electric car with an around-town driving range of about 100 miles. The Volt has a range of only 40 miles, enough for a typical days driving, but it also has a gasoline engine to generate electricity for further driving up to about 300 miles.

Nissan had previously said that it expected to price the Leaf competitively to similar gasoline-powered cars such as a well-equipped Honda Civic.

The Leaf's standard features will include navigation and Bluetooth telephone connectivity, said Perry.


Nissan already has a list of more than 80,000 people who have expressed interest in the Leaf, Perry said. And in coming weeks, Nissan will begin taking refundable $99 deposits for the car.

Those who submit deposits can have their homes inspected to make sure they have appropriate space and wiring to install a charging dock, Perry said. Nissan expects about half those expressing interest to submit a deposit, he said.

Nissan also expects many customers to lease the car. That way, they won't have to worry about filing or refiling their taxes go get the benefit since it will factored into the lease payments, Perry noted.

The car will lease for a $349 a month with an initial down payment $1,999.

"Our goal there was to get our total operating cost, vehicle, electricity charging station, all in, around $400 a month," Perry said.

In some states there are also state incentives for the purchase of an electric car. In California, for example, there is a $5,000 credit which would reduce the cost to just over $20,000, Perry said.

Nissan has partnered with an outside company, AeroVironment, to install home chargers for the car. Installation of the charger will typically cost $2,200, Perry said, but there is a tax credit that will cover half the cost up to $2,000

Xantrex Meets Local Canadian Content


Schneider Electric – formerly known as Xantrex – says it will be fully compliant and ready to deliver inverters that meet the guidelines of Ontario's new "Green Energy" strategy, the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program. Under that program, 50 percent of the goods and labor in a given installation must come from Ontario.
Many companies and organizations were critical of the local requirement, saying that it would mean that Ontario – with limited manufacturing in the renewables space – would not be able to scale up its program.
Many companies and organizations were critical of the local requirement, saying that it would mean that Ontario – with limited manufacturing in the renewables space – would not be able to scale up its program. However, in recent months, a number of companies have moved into the province, setting up production facilities there.
Schneider Electric was already well-postitioned to take advantage of the program, as it already had a facility in Mississauga, Ontario.
The manufacturing facility is fully staffed and functional, ready to roll out the existing 480 and 208 Vac versions of the Schneider Electric Xantrex GT100, Schneider Electric Xantrex GT250 and Schneider Electric Xantrex GT500 in August to be followed shortly by the 600 Vac versions of the Schneider Electric Xantrex GT100 and Schneider Electric Xantrex GT250 which will be released by the end of 2010 for shipment in 2011. 
“We’ve worked very hard to achieve compliance in a timely manner,” said Rudy Wodrich, Commercial Vice President, Schneider Electric. “Our customers are a top priority and it is our goal to have uninterrupted delivery of FIT approved products available to them.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

3 Rate Tier Proposal for PGE

Many Silicon Valley residents could see their electricity bills rise by more than $100 a year under a new PG&E proposal that would cut rates for customers who use the most energy, such as those in scorching areas like the Central Valley.

PG&E says the change is needed because people in many parts of the state — particularly areas where boiling summer temperatures result in heavy use of air conditioners — have been hit with excessively high rate increases in recent years. But over the same period, said company spokesman Jonathan Marshall, rates have failed to keep pace with inflation for other customers, including many in the Bay Area.

"The increase in costs we've seen have fallen almost entirely on higher-use customers, and while that has the benefit of promoting energy conservation, it's gotten to the point where it is no longer equitable," he said.

But advocates for some consumer and environmental groups said the proposal, which must be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, would discourage PG&E customers from cutting back on electricity use.

"People who are low energy users will be penalized," while rewarding "people who by their own admission are the very highest end users," said Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, which closely monitors energy rates. "We just don't see how that makes sense."
Under its proposal, PG&E says customers who consume the statewide average of 550 kilowatts of electricity a month — typical in Silicon Valley and much of the Bay Area — would see their monthly electricity bill rise $10.73 to $88.13.

By contrast, the monthly bill for consumers using 1,500 kilowatts would decline an average of $108.62 to $371.46. Some people in the Bay Area use that much energy, although it is more common for residents in areas subject to higher extremes in temperature.

The proposed change is expected to be debated by the commission through the rest of this year. If it's approved, PG&E hopes to put it into effect in May 2011.

It would essentially flatten rates within the utility's service area by changing the current five-tier rate system, where high-electricity using customers at the top tier pay nearly 50 cents per kilowatt hour and low-electricity users in the bottom tier pay about 12 cents per kilowatt hour.
That would change to a three-tier system, with those in the top category paying slightly less than 30 cents per kilowatt hour. The rate for the bottom two tiers would remain the same, but many customers who are now in those two tiers would be placed in a higher tier and, as a result, pay a higher electricity rate.

PG&E also is proposing a flat monthly service fee to cover some of its costs. The fee, which PG&E says is similar to what other utilities charge, would be $3 for most customers and $2.40 for low-income residents who qualify for the California Alternative Rates for Energy program.
Although some PG&E customers in the highest rate tier live in cold areas, most tend to be in hot parts of the state where sweltering temperatures send air conditioner use soaring. Utility charges have aroused such concern in Kern County that the board of supervisors is seeking voter approval in November to obtain electricity from a supplier other than PG&E.

PG&E spokesman Marshall said the utility proposed the change because many top-tier residents think the current system is unfair "and we agree with them." He stressed that PG&E would not make more money by reshuffling the rates and imposing the service fee.
Severin Borenstein, who co-directs UC Berkeley's Energy Institute, said he believes PG&E's proposal is warranted.
He said tiered rates can be beneficial to some poor people because they tend to use electricity more sparingly than others. But people in higher tiers aren't always persuaded to keep their lights low because "it's probably too complex a system" for them to understand, he said, adding that high-tier customers "are being charged inequitably."

However, Jim Metropulos, a senior advocate for the Sierra Club, said he feared the PG&E plan "would discourage conservation." He favored having PG&E set rates based on the microclimates of specific areas and use more renewable energy sources "rather than just stick people in this simplistic, non-climate-sensitive rate structure."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fannie / Freddie Resist PACE Financing

The government's mortgage-finance agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are resisting a White House-backed effort to make it easier for homeowners to get loans to make their houses more energy efficient.
The problem: deciding who gets paid first if the borrower defaults.
Under the program, homeowners would borrow money from their local government to pay for energy improvements—from high-efficiency furnaces that cost a few thousand dollars, to solar-panel systems that can cost more than $30,000. They would then repay the loan over 15 to 20 years through a special assessment added to their property-tax bills. Local governments would get the funding by selling municipal bonds to investors.
Associated Press
Edward Boghosian, right, and Patrick Aziz of California Green Design install solar electrical panels Tuesday on the roof of a home in Glendale, Calif.
This debt would be senior to existing mortgage debt, so if the homeowner defaults or goes into foreclosure, it would be repaid before the mortgage lender gets any money. While property-tax assessments are usually senior to existing property debt, cities have traditionally used their assessment authority for community-wide improvements like sewers and roads—not for upgrades that homeowners elect to make on their own homes.
Proponents of the program, called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, say it is necessary for the loans to be paid before mortgages if local governments are to raise funds for the program from municipal-bond investors.
Backers also say the programs offer a novel financing mechanism to address the high upfront costs that so far have limited the widespread adoption of practical energy-saving improvements.
But the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—which guarantee half of the nation's $11 trillion in mortgages—has raised concerns in meetings about the program with federal and state officials. Alfred Pollard, general counsel for the mortgage companies' regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said he was worried about the problems that a first-lien, or first-in-line, loan could create. "The goal of enhancing energy efficiency, which we share, should not overcome the need for prudent underwriting," he said.
Fannie and Freddie aren't allowed to speak out on public policy, and the companies declined to comment for this article. PACE advocates have lobbied for a measure barring Fannie and Freddie from taking any adverse action over the next two years on communities participating in PACE.
Critics of the program say that Fannie and Freddie, or mortgage lenders themselves, could raise rates in such communities to cover the risk that a PACE loan will displace payments to the mortgage holder. Cities could also face legal challenges, they say. The state of Maine is considering making energy loans junior to existing debt in legislation that would establish its PACE program.
"The fundamental problem is that there isn't a free lunch but there often appears to be," said William K. Black, a professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Sixteen states have passed legislation that would allow municipalities to establish PACE programs, including Texas, Virginia, California and Colorado. San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego are set to launch pilot programs this year, joining Berkeley, Calif., and Boulder County, Colo., which last year financed $10 million of improvements for 600 homeowners.
Advocates say the programs could fund $1 billion in projects in California.
Local governments establish their own rules for eligibility, although a White House task force has issued guidelines.
PACE critics say homeowners, prodded by contractors, could pile on more debt at a time when home values are falling. They also say cities aren't equipped to underwrite loans.
"It's got all the right economics to take off in a huge way and then cause huge losses," said David Felt, a retired senior FHFA lawyer. "When you're able to market to people who can't get financing for an ordinary home-equity loan, that should set off alarm bells."
PACE supporters say the programs will attract responsible homeowners and those who have equity in their homes or are mortgage-free. Cities are also being instructed by the task force on PACE loans to promote high-yield investments that lower energy costs and offset higher payments.
"The nature of the investment is such that it is typically going to lead to cautious investments, not granite countertops or vacations," said Will Toor, a Boulder County commissioner.
Unlike home-equity loans, which allow homeowners to take money out of the home and spend it on things that don't improve property value, PACE loans are targeted narrowly on improvements that should add value to homes and create energy savings.
Some new PACE programs are limiting their scope to assuage lenders' concerns. In San Francisco, for example, financing can't exceed 10% of the assessed value of the property, and homes that are worth less than the outstanding mortgage debt aren't eligible. Homeowners must be current on all property debt, and the existing mortgage lenders must sign off on any projects of more than $50,000.
Dwight Jaffee, a professor of finance and real estate at the University of California, Berkeley, said PACE programs could be structured to satisfy lenders' concerns by providing lenders with evidence that improvements reduce energy costs and add value, as lower energy bills offset the costs from the higher tax assessment.
"Presented with this evidence, the bank lenders should say in their own interest, 'Bless you, we're happy to sign off on this,' " Mr. Jaffee said.

Monday, March 22, 2010

CA Feed in Tariff

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation that will create a European-style above-market tariff, called a feed-in tariff, for small solar-panel generators.


California's abundant sunshine, relatively high utility rates and solar subsidies have already made the state one of the world's top solar markets. The proposal seeks to expand the market by requiring California utilities to buy power from solar-panel generators of 1.5-3.0 megawatts in size, at set rates above what the utilities would pay for wholesale power from conventional sources.


Some solar companies said the bill's pricing scheme would create a feed-in tariff of about 15 to 17 cents a kilowatt-hour, which they said wouldn't be high enough to spur significant investment. But others said the program would create opportunities for lower-cost projects for which there isn't currently a market.
Supporters of the legislation, including the California Solar Energy Industries Association, said the bill's feed-in tariff will be high enough for schools, local governments, farms, warehouses and other low-cost property owners to take advantage of it.


Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. (NYSE:STP) , SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ:SPWR.A) , Applied Materials Inc. (NASDAQ:AMAT) and other companies have pointed to a separate effort at the California Public Utilities Commission to establish a feed-in tariff-type program as more viable.
The CPUC staff has proposed requiring the state's three large utilities, owned by PG&E Corp. (NYSE:PCG) , Edison International (NYSE:EIX) and Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE) , to collectively buy 1,000 megawatts of power from solar-panel generators sized between 1 MW and 20 MW over four years through "reverse auctions" in which they would pick the projects with the lowest bids to meet their requirements. The agency is still reviewing proposals for the program and could make a decision sometime next year.


In a letter to the state Senate, Governor Schwarzenegger said he was signing the bill because the state "will need to use all of the tools available" to meet its goal of using renewable sources for a third of electricity sold by utilities by 2020.


The CPUC should proceed with its own feed-in tariff program, he said.

UK Feed in Tariff


Wilmslow, Cheshire
The new UK feed in tariff is about to start in the UK. With a higher than expected rate of 41.3p per kW a typical 2.5kW system can earn an income of around £1,200 per annum. read on to find out which system to install.......
The UK has lagged behind the rest of the world when it comes to the installation of solar panels. Although the scheme has come late, the actual rate set has been higher than what most people expected. So how exactly does the feed in tariff work?

Well the feed in tariff will consist of two elements:
Unit rate: 41.3p
Export rate: 5p

The unit rate of 41.3p will be paid regardless of whether the electricity is used by the homeowner or whether it is exported to the national grid. The export tariff is paid in addition to the unit rate. so lets take an example of a 1.0kW system with 50% used by the homeowner for their own use and 50% exported to the national grid.

500 kw @ 41.3p
500 kw @ 5p
Total earnings: £206.50 + £15.00 = £221.50

This payment will be made every year for the next 25 years. So bearing in mind that a typical solar pv system will last around 35 years, you would be looking at a payment of £7.752.00. For a typical install, you would be looking at a rate of return of 10%, and this is tax free.

The introduction of the feed in tariff should lead to an increase in the number of homes installing solar panels in the UK. next year will also see the introduction of the feed in tariff for solar thermal. whilst we do not yet know the details of the solar thermal tariff, the expectation is that we should see a return of around 10% for this. Wayne Morris of the big green company says "The UK solar industry has been waiting for some time now for the government to introduce the feed in tariff. The prediction is that solar panels could lead to a significant increase in the number of green jobs in the UK".

Incidentally the introduction of feed in tariffs in the US has led to a significant number of homes now installing solar energy. What is vital now is that the energy companies set up education campaigns to inform the UK about the benefits of solar energy.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Plastiki Sets Sail

After nearly 4 years of development the Plastiki has finally sailed off into its big adventure – the South Pacific!

On a journey that will last up to 100 days the crew will battle with the elements of the Pacific, the challenges of a one of a kind boat and witness some of the most devastating waste accumulation on our planet. Its been a long time coming, and for the crew and supporting team this is a very special day.

After some tearful farewells and many a photograph the crew of David de Rothschild, Jo Royle, David Thomson, and Olav Heyerdahl along with Cameramen Vern Moen and Max Jourdan sailed their way out of the marina followed by a fleet of Plastiki well wishers. This will be only the second time the Plastiki will have ventured beyond the Golden gate bridge and will mark the first day of a 3 month journey that will take them from San Francisco to Sydney on a mission to deliver a global message to beat waste and highlight the peril in our oceans.

We were thrilled to see such a great turn out from our local supporters who came down to the Marina to wish the Plastiki a safe trip, and the support we have had over the last few months online has also been a fantastic drive for all of the team. So thank you to everyone who has been following and supporting us over the years – it means a lot and we hope to hear much more from you as the mission progresses!

Barking over bottles

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Solar Rights for Renters

INTRODUCED BY   Assembly Member Fong

                        FEBRUARY 17, 2010

   An act to add Section 2829.5 to the Public Utilities Code,
relating to solar energy.


 LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


   AB 1947, as introduced, Fong. Solar energy: solar farms: credits.
   Under existing law, the Public Utilities Commission has regulatory
authority over public utilities, including electrical corporations.
The Public Utilities Act imposes various duties and responsibilities
on the commission with respect to the purchase of electricity by
electrical corporations and requires the commission to review and
adopt a procurement plan and a renewable energy procurement plan for
each electrical corporation pursuant to the California Renewables
Portfolio Standard Program. The program requires that a retail seller
of electricity, including electrical corporations, purchase a
specified minimum percentage of electricity generated by eligible
renewable energy resources, including solar, in any given year as a
specified percentage of total kilowatthours sold to retail end-use
customers each calendar year (renewables portfolio standard).
   This bill would direct the commission to require an electrical
corporation to apply a bill credit of up to 100% to a customer's
bill, calculated as prescribed, for electricity that is generated by
solar panels leased by the customer at a solar farm, as defined, and
fed back to the electric grid.
   Under existing law, a violation of any order, decision, rule,
direction, demand, or requirement of the commission is a crime.
   Because this bill would require action by the commission to
implement its requirements, the violation of which would be a crime,
this bill would impose a state-mandated local program by creating a
new crime.
   The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local
agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the
state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that
reimbursement.
   This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this
act for a specified reason.
   Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes.
State-mandated local program: yes.


THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  SECTION 1.  Section 2829.5 is added to the Public Utilities Code,
to read:
   2829.5.  (a) As used in this section:
   (1) "Eligible customer-generator" means a residential customer of
an electrical corporation that meets both of the following
requirements:
   (A) The customer leases solar panels at a solar farm, within the
service area of the electrical corporation, from which the electrical
corporation procures electricity.
   (B) The electricity generated by the solar panels described in
paragraph (A) is measured by a time-of-use meter capable of
registering the flow of electricity in two directions.
   (2) "Solar farm" means a photovoltaic facility that leases the use
of solar panels located at the facility.
   (b) The commission shall require an electrical corporation to
calculate the value of the electricity that is generated by an
eligible customer-generator and fed back to the electric grid at the
same rates as the electricity supplied to the eligible
customer-generator over the same billing period, and apply a credit
of equivalent value to the eligible customer-generator's bill of up
to 100 percent of the bill.
  SEC. 2.  No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to
Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because
the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school
district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or
infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty
for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the
Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the
meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California
Constitution.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

$77B Solar Market in 2015


As the books close on what was a turbulent 2009 for the solar industry, Lux Research said that the solar market will soon see the lopsided supply and demand that characterized much of the last year return to equilibrium. According to the new report Solar's Shakeout: Europe Loses Leadership as China Rises," strong demand growth in Asia and the U.S. will push the market to 9.3 GW in 2010, hitting a dollar value of US $39 billion. Building from there, continuing price reductions for all types of solar technology are expected to open new markets and help the solar industry reach $77 billion in revenue and 26.4 GW in capacity by 2015.

A large portion of the growth is expected to come from China, which in the last few years has become large manufacturer of solar modules and materials, but not yet a large buyer of them. Lux said it expects China to be the world's largest solar market in 2015.

The report underscores, however, that the renewed balance between supply and demand will arrive only after a wave of company failures and lower utilization rates.

Lux analyzes economic competitiveness and other drivers for the industry's six major technologies, crystalline silicon (x-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), thin film silicon (TF-Si), copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), high concentrating photovoltaics (HCPV) and  concentrating solar power (CSP).
"We found that solar's short-term pain will enable it to exceed growth expectations over the very long-term," said Ted Sullivan, a senior analyst for Lux Research, and the report's lead author. "The volume of solar installations will grow at a 23% annual rate from 2010 to 2015, but revenue will grow by just 14%, as prices fall due to remaining over-capacity. While current subsidies in China and elsewhere will help soak up some of that capacity, there will be widespread company failures throughout the value chain first."

The report updates earlier market size and demand forecasts, extends Lux Research's outlook through 2015, and adds three new geographies -- Czech Republic, New Jersey, and Ontario -- due to their high levels of subsidies and rapidly developing markets.

Among the key findings are that capacity remains well above demand -- signaling violent changes ahead.

Lux expects the supply and demand curves to move abruptly together over the next few years due to company failures. Demand will also increase in producing regions such as China, prompted by government subsidies and other factors.

Low-cost x-Si technologies will continue to dominate the marketplace, but thin-film and CSP will gain market share.

Lux said that as financing begins to return to solar in 2010, crystalline silicon players will continue to use low price as a weapon against new technologies that don't share its "bankability" or scale. However, new technologies such as CSP, CIGS, and even HCPV technologies are expected to gain at the margins.

The biggest take away from the report is that solar adoption will be a multi-decade story. Lux said that solar will wildly beat its expectations in the long-term. When it comes down to deploying solar the industry will rely on an energy and construction business model rather than a consumer-oriented one. As a result the report said that solar's adoption will rely in large part on replacement cycles for residential and commercial roofs and for natural gas power plants.

Colorado to Boost RPS to 30%


The Colorado state Senate approved legislation Friday that would increase the state's renewable energy standard (RES) to 30% by 2020.
The legislation (House Bill 1001) now heads back to the House to concur with minor changes made by the Senate. If approved, it will then go to the desk of Governor Bill Ritter, who is expected to sign it into law.
It will require investor-owned utilities (IOUs) to dramatically increase their percentage of electricity sales coming from local, distributed renewable energy projects.
Colorado's new RES would be the second largest in the nation, behind California, which has mandated 33% by 2020. 
Key Provisions in HB 1001 are expected to create 23,450 jobs in the state, according to a new report released by Vote Solar and Environment Colorado. 
“Investing in the Sun” analyzes the benefits of building 1,000 megawatts (MW) of smaller, distributed solar energy systems in Colorado. In addition to other distributed generation resources such as small-scale wind, HB 1001 is expected to deploy 700 MW of solar generation by 2020.
“Solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy resource. This study was intended to shine a spotlight on the real and immediate economic development opportunity Colorado could realize if a stronger statewide solar requirement were enacted,” said Annie Carmichael, Vote Solar’s policy lead for Colorado.
Senate debate of the bill, which lasted more than a day and a half, turned bitter at times. And the vote fell along party lines, as Democrats voted in favor, while all Republicans opposed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Trying to nudge homeowners to convert to solar power and reduce dependency on electricity, Gov. Linda Lingle and state lawmakers may authorize state bonds that would finance loans to cover the upfront cost of installation.

Cost is a barrier for many homeowners interested in solar, despite federal and state tax incentives and utility rebates available to help make renewable energy more affordable.

A solar heating water system costs about $6,500 to $7,000, according to the Hawai'i Solar Energy Association. The out-of-pocket expense for homeowners, after the tax credits and rebates, is about $2,000. A more extensive photovoltaic system costs between $15,000 and $60,000, with the out-of-pocket expense about half that amount after tax credits.

Under the bond-financing program, homeowners would get loans that would be repaid through assessments on their county property tax bills. The loans would be attached to the property, not the homeowner, and would remain if the property is sold.

"We have a problem getting financing for middle-class homeowners for photovoltaic systems," said Mark Duda, the president of the Hawai'i Solar Energy Association.

Hawai'i, dependent on imported oil for 90 percent of its energy, has set a goal of having 70 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

One in four Hawai'i homeowners is on a solar water heating system, according to the Blue Planet Foundation. The state received national attention for a law that took effect in January that requires solar heating water systems on most new single-family homes.

Lingle, a Republican who has made renewable energy a focus of her second term, included the bond-financing program in her State of the State address in January. State House and Senate Democrats will consider a bill that passed the House last week that authorizes general-obligation bonds to finance loans for both residential and commercial property owners.

Under the bill, proceeds from the bond sales would go into a revolving loan fund under the direction of the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, which would issue loans to property owners in counties that agree to collect the loan repayments for the state.
Homeowners could get loans for solar heating water systems, photovoltaic systems, small wind systems, and biogas systems.

Other energy-efficiency improvements, such as air sealing and ventilation, insulation, and reflective roofs, would also be covered.

SOME CONCERNS
While there is support from Lingle and several leading Democrats, there are concerns, including the expansion of state debt from the bonds given the state's projected $1.2 billion budget deficit through June 2011.
The Senate dropped its version of the bill because of the concern about debt.

The Tax Foundation of Hawai'i, meanwhile, said property owners who get the loans should not be able to qualify for state tax credits — which can offset 35 percent of installation costs — because then the "projects would be granted a double subsidy by the taxpayers of the state."

Duda, of the Hawai'i Solar Energy Association, suggested that the program be available only to homeowners. Commercial property owners, he said, are often able to find bank financing and the program may duplicate efforts in the private market.

Many environmentalists see the bond-financing program as a potential breakthrough. The concept, known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, started in Berkeley, Calif., in 2007 and has been sampled in several other cities and counties.

Cisco DeVries, the president of Renewable Funding in Oakland, Calif., who was the mayor's chief of staff in Berkeley when the idea was being developed, said the upfront cost of renewable energy systems is a real obstacle for property owners.

"How many of us would have cell phones if we had to buy 20 years of minutes up front?" he asked, calculating the hypothetical cell phone bill for his family at $28,000.

Ted Liu, the director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, told lawmakers in written testimony that as demand for installation increases, private contactors would likely have to hire new employees and local entrepreneurs may create new clean-energy businesses.
.
'TOOL IN THE KIT'
State Rep. Hermina Morita, D-14th (Hanalei, Anahola, Kapa'a), the chairwoman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, said she is optimistic lawmakers will move the bill.

"It's a tool in the kit," she said. "I think another thing we have to look at is how this would affect the tax credit, because some people will view this as double-dipping."

State Sen. J. Kalani English, D-6th (E. Maui, Moloka'i, Lāna'i), said that while he backs the bond-financing concept, he believes the state should be creative and look at private investors. He said the Senate has tried to hold the line on new bond programs.

"I think it has a great chance of survival, except we have to be really real about it," he said. "I don't think the bond part will survive."

State Sen. Mike Gabbard, D-19th (Kapolei, Makakilo, Waikele), the chairman of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, believes the concept has great potential.

"Right now, for the masses, this whole idea of energy self-sufficiency, it's not real. It's very abstract ," he said. "This makes it real."