Energy Bills Designed To Revitalize Solar Industry


Talking Story…Sen. Mike Gabbard

The 2014 Legislative Session opened Jan. 15 and will conclude May 1. This is my sixth year as chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee. In addition to focusing on kicking our addiction to foreign oil and using more clean, renewable energy, I’m also putting more emphasis on protecting the environment.

Please let me know if I can ever help you or your family in any way. I can be reached at 586-6830 or by email at sengabbard@capitol.hawaii. gov.

Energy Priority Bills

Here are a few of the priority bills I’ve introduced for the 2014 session.

* Grid Modernization (SB 2656) – In light of the recent policy changes made by Hawaiian Electric Co. that have greatly slowed the growth of the solar industry, this measure would require HECO to make the necessary grid upgrades to ensure that people can continue to install solar PV in a timely manner.

* Energy Storage (SB 2932) – One big roadblock to us moving forward with more solar and wind on the grid is that this type of energy is intermittent and is hard for the utilities to manage. The answer? More energy storage so we can store the energy created during the day and use it at night (or vice versa).

* Hawaii Community-Based Renewable Energy Program (SB 2934) – This bill establishes a community-based solar program to enable folks to purchase PV panels at location off-site and receive a credit for the energy generated to lower their electricity bill. This is similar to what they have in Rifle, Colo., which has an 858 kW system near the airport with 3,575 PV panels owned by Jimmy’s Pizza, Montessori School and various families and individuals.

Legislation Focuses on Preventing Future Molasses Spills

An estimated 233,000 gallons of molasses spilled into Honolulu Harbor Sept. 9, 2013. At least 26,000 fish died, and it also caused bleaching of marine corals. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is currently investigating the spill.

State Rep. Chris Lee, chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, and I held a news conference Jan. 27 to announce that we had introduced legislation in the hope of preventing future spills.

One of my bills, SB 3016, would update a 1996 oil spill report conducted by UH Sea Grant College, and another, SB 3017, would create the Coral Reef and Marine Life Conservation Special Fund to direct fines and mitigation compensation for the benefit of marine resources.

The bottom line is that both industry and government were unprepared to deal with this type of environmental accident. We need to do our best to make sure these spills don’t happen again. But if they do, we should have the necessary laws in place to act as quickly as possible to clean up the mess.

Listen-Story Meeting

My next “Listen Story” meeting will at 9 a.m. Feb. 22 at Ewa Mahiko District Park.