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Solar bond will help HNL focus on renewable energy

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Solar bond will help HNL focus on renewable energy

Oahu's environment soon will be breathing easier because of a bond passed with the final city budget this month.

The $7.85 million solar bond for clean energy and efficiency projects for city buildings will finance energy upgrades and the promotion of solar energy. Honolulu is among the first cities in the nation to dedicate bonds for clean-energy projects.

Naomi Arcand, chairwoman of the Sierra Club, Oahu Group, praised the city Council for approving the bond.

"These bonds ... will pay for themselves and save the city money, reduce air pollution and provide good local jobs," she said.

The bond will fund lighting or air-conditioning improvements in municipal buildings islandwide as well as photovoltaic installations in city buildings in Kapolei. Currently, power at Honolulu Hale is generated on-site from natural gas and waste heat.

Councilman Charles Djou, who championed the bond measure, noted that the city is one of the largest energy users on Oahu.

"It makes sense because it will save money over the long term," he said. "Using renewable energy will cut costs to taxpayers because the amount we save on the bill each month will add up to more than the cost of the bond. It is good public policy to use renewable sources of energy."

Djou said the bond measure, dubbed the Honolulu Solar Bond, is self-financing in that it will be paid off by energy savings from several city projects planned for Oahu over time. The Sierra Club says the renewable and energy-efficiency projects will see a quick payback time and will allow for more investment in other renewable sources.

The Honolulu bond will attempt to replicate the successful $100 million solar bond passed in San Francisco by voters in November 2001. Adam Browning, director of operations for the Vote Solar Initiative, a San Francisco-based organization working with cities across the country, analyzed the bond proposed for Honolulu.

"It is gratifying to see Honolulu take a leadership position in this," Browning said. "Anticipating how it might be implemented, it looks like it will save taxpayers $200,000 annually and $2 million over the life of the project.

"It's not just good for the environment, but smart fiscal policy," he said. "These projects save the city and county money and provide a hedge against future energy price increases. It would be fiscally irresponsible not to do them."

Browning says 92 percent of Hawaii's electricity is generated from fossil fuels that are shipped in from out of the state. He says the solar bond will move Hawaii toward energy independence, slow down increases in future energy costs and serve as an example to the rest of the country.

"The bond will help stimulate the solar industry in Hawaii and play a part in jump-starting the transition to renewable [energy] across the country," Browning said.

The immediate projects will go out to bid by the end of the year.


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