Column: Hawaii moves to lower energy bills
With the highest electricity rates in the nation, efficiency is typically the easiest and cheapest way for Hawaii residents and businesses to embrace clean energy practices and savings into their lives. But efficiency shouldn’t only fall on the end user to adopt.
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In our world, efficiency is a key piece to achieving Hawaii’s ambitious energy and climate goals. While our collective mission is to help the state reach these goals, it comes down to the impact clean energy will have on our way of life — both environmentally and economically.
With the highest electricity rates in the nation, efficiency is typically the easiest and cheapest way for Hawaii residents and businesses to embrace clean energy practices and savings into their lives. But efficiency shouldn’t only fall on the end user to adopt. The manufacturers of the equipment and technology we use can also do their part by offering more energy-efficient products. It’s similar to how automakers are adding more fuel-efficient cars — like electric vehicles — to their lineups, giving consumers greener options for their next purchase.
In the home, many large household appliances, such as refrigerators, washers and dryers, are already regulated under federal standards. However, let’s not forget the impact smaller electronics can have on energy usage. While it’s hopefully common practice to turn off the lights when we leave the room, do we remember to shut off the computer and monitor, too?
That’s where state appliance efficiency standards — like those established in Act 141, which Gov. David Ige just signed — can make an impact. We’re proud that Hawaii has taken this initial step in ensuring that the products we often use are aligned with our state’s 100 percent clean energy goals.
Act 141 establishes energy and water efficiency standards for five products not currently covered at the federal level, including computers and computer monitors, faucets, showerheads, sprinklers and certain fluorescent lamps.
A common misperception is that these efficiencies will increase the price of goods. In actuality, a number of the products in the new law have no incremental cost, meaning they don’t cost more than inefficient models. In fact, consumers will be able to see the efficiency savings on their utility bills, which will make up for the upfront investments.
Over a course of 15 years, these appliance efficiency standards will result in an estimated $537 million in net utility bills savings for Hawaii.
With Act 141, Hawaii joins several other states in adopting appliance efficiency standards, including California, Colorado, Vermont and Washington, which recognize the additional climate benefits of carbon emissions reductions and carbon neutrality.
The appliance standards adopted in Act 141 are largely modeled after California’s already existing and enforced standards, meaning that manufacturers have already adapted to the testing, certification and labeling requirements for selling energy-efficient products in California.
All of this is why Blue Planet Foundation and Hawai‘i Energy made House Bill 556 a priority in the 2019 state legislative session. We applaud Rep. Nicole Lowen, chairwoman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, for introducing and championing the measure, and Sen. Glenn Wakai for supporting the bill as chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism. Plus, the Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs collaborated with other state agencies to reach a compromise draft that went to the governor’s desk. And we appreciate the governor for signing the bill into law as Act 141.
While the details on how the standards will be applied are still being sorted out, we can look forward to a future where we can feel confident and comfortable with the amount of energy we’re using, and more importantly, not using.