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Abercrombie signs bill supporting renewable energy

Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Friday signed into law a bill directing the state Public Utilities Commission to study a program to encourage more consumers to move to renewable energy.

The so-called on-bill financing, if deemed viable and implemented by the PUC, would allow consumers to finance renewable energy systems over time through their electricity bills. Environmentalists had pushed for a bill to require the PUC to launch the program, but the PUC was concerned about implementation. Hawaiian Electric Co. told lawmakers that on-bill financing programs, by their nature, are expensive to administer and are unlikely to be cost effective. Lawmakers reduced it to a study.

Abercrombie had put the bill on his potential veto list. The governor, speaking at a Hawaii Energy Policy Forum at the Laniakea YMCA on Friday, said it could be considered an unfunded mandate on the PUC because there was no state money provided to back the bill. He said Blue Planet Foundation, an environmental interest group, was willing to help the PUC with the cost.

“Now it’s easy to say, it’s another thing to actually implement it and make it work,” Abercrombie said of on-bill financing. “But the idea is, if you never get started, if you don’t take the first step, then it’s not going to happen at all. A hundred percent of nothing is nothing. It’s a guarantee that we’ll never be able to figure it out if we never get started.”

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