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Energy efficiency bill awaits Gov. David Ige’s signature

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Hawaii legislators have passed a bill establishing energy efficiency standards for state appliances sold in the state.

House Bill 556, introduced by state Rep. Nicole Lowen, requires the state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism to adopt minimum appliance efficiency standards for certain products sold or leased in the state starting Jan. 1, 2021.

If signed into law by Gov. David Ige, Hawaii would join other states with similar standards, including California, Oregon and Washington.

“Energy efficiency is the cheapest and quickest way to accelerate progress toward Hawaii’s 100% renewable energy goal,” said Rep. Lowen in a news release. “Setting appliance efficiency standards is the type of smart, implementable policy we need to help lower financial burdens for low and moderate income residents and enable everyone to come along on our path to a clean energy economy.”

Many appliances, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and commercial air conditioners are already regulated by national appliance efficiency standards.

The bill establishes energy and water efficiency standards for five products not currently covered at the federal level, including computers, faucets, showerheads, spray sprinklers, and certain fluorescent lamps.

Without state appliance efficiency standards, the bill said, appliance manufacturers may unload less efficient appliances in Hawaii they cannot sell in other states with heightened standards. As a result, Hawaii residents risk losing as much as $1 billion in unnecessary energy waste due to inefficient appliances over 20 years.

The bill was supported by DBEDT, the state Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission and Blue Planet Foundation, along with other environmental advocacy groups. It was opposed by the Retail Merchants of Hawaii.

Melissa Miyashiro, Chief of Staff at the Blue Planet Foundation, a lead advocate for the bill, applauded the legislature for adopting common sense energy efficiency standards. The foundation said the bill would result in $537 million in utility bill savings for Hawaii consumers, and spare 700,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the environment over 15 years.

“The role of energy efficiency is often overlooked, but it’s among the most powerful tools in our climate action toolkit,” said Miyashiro in a news release. “These appliance standards will decrease energy use, save consumers and businesses money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.”

Miyashiro said that a common misconception is that efficient appliances cost substantially more than their inefficient counterparts.

“In actuality, a number of the products in the new bill have no incremental cost, meaning that they don’t cost more than inefficient models and consumers will start saving right away,” she said. “For others, utility bill savings pay back the small incremental cost of products meeting the standards within a few months to one year. After that, savings accrue to the consumers over the lifetime of the product.”

The appliance standards adopted in the bill are largely modeled after California’s already existing and enforced standards, she said, meaning that manufacturers have already adapted to the testing, certification, and labeling requirements for selling energy efficient products in the Golden state.

Additionally, the bill adopts current federal appliance energy efficiency and water conservation standards as Hawaii state standards even if the former are repealed or withdrawn. Gov. Ige has until July 9 to sign the measure into law.

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