A program that temporarily doubled the rebate for solar water heating systems to $1,500 for Hawaiian Electric Co. customers has ended early after overwhelming demand from homeowners depleted its funding in less than a month.
Homeowners will continue to be able to claim the standard rebate of $750 as long as they finance the system through an interest rate buy-down program, according to Hawaii Energy, which administers the energy efficiency program for the state. The program provides a $1,000 incentive to participating lenders that allows them to finance solar water heating systems at below market interest rates, down to zero in some cases. A list of participating lenders can be found at www.hawaiienergy.com/94/hot-water-cool-rates.
The expanded program provided rebates for 600 households before federal stimulus funding ran out, Hawaii Energy said.
"Hawaii Energy witnessed an unprecedented quadrupling of demand for solar water heating systems," program officials said in a news release. "This was the intended purpose of the bonus rebate but the popularity of the special bonus depleted the funds much faster than anticipated."
When Hawaii Energy announced the expanded program, it said the $1,500 rebates would be available until May 31 or until the federal funding ran out. The rebates began on March 21 and ended Friday.
Hawaii Energy said it boosted the rebate to lift sluggish sales of solar water heating systems. Rebates given out for solar water heaters fell to 3,656 in 2010 from 8,770 in 2009, according to Hawaii Energy.
Even with the decline in installations, Hawaii still leads the nation in the number of solar water heating systems on a per capita basis, according to the Hawaii Solar Energy Association. The 80,000 systems account for about 33 percent of the 239,000 single-family homes statewide.
Solar water heating systems are eligible for tax credits of 35 percent from the state and 30 percent from the federal government.
"We would like to thank the entire community for participating in and supporting our ongoing efforts to reduce Hawaii’s dependence on imported oil," said Ray Starling, Hawaii Energy program manager. "Individual efforts involving energy conservation and efficiency are a vital part of making the state a more sustainable place."