HSEA's Executive Director Responds to Negative Solar Industry Criticism

Posted on Monday, June 25, 2012

The Hawaii Solar Energy Association's own Leslie Cole-Brooks has responded to a negative comment in the Star Advertiser's "Letter to the Editor" section. In there, Paul Brubaker, a past economist for the Bank of Hawaii, issues unwarranted negative criticism on the Solar Industry despite the economic study provided by Dr. Tom Loudat, which you can read from the link below:

http://blueplanetfoundation.org/Recent-News/Entry/renewable-energy-tax-credit-should-it-stay-or-should-it-go.html 

Here is Leslie's Response to Paul's comments:

By Leslie Cole-Brooks

Recent assertions that the Hawaii solar tax credit is bad social policy that exchanges public funds for private benefit
with no public gain couldn't be more off base — and they collapse when faced with the facts.

First, rather than wasting money, the solar tax credit generates income for the state that stays in Hawaii. Last year,
the solar industry accounted for approximately 17 percent of the overall construction market in Hawaii. This work
translates into real revenues that benefit everyone, revenues that more than double the initial investment of the tax
credit. Proponents of big oil might argue that the work would have happened anyway, but numerous studies show
that tax incentives and credits create work. When they disappear, so does the work.

Imagine what and who it takes to install a photovoltaic (PV) panel. First, the installer, who now has
a job and pays state and federal income tax. He uses his paycheck to pay for rent, food, a night at
the movies and tuition for his kids in local schools. Then both the solar supplier and installation
company pay general excise tax and income tax based upon the cost of the supplies and service and
the net profit from the transaction. The employer also pays into the unemployment compensation
fund and workers' comp, which may or may not be collected.

Paul Brewbaker, former Bank of Hawaii economist and friend of the Western States Petroleum
Association, recently took issue with the solar tax program ("Isle economist lambasts ‘clean energy'
tax policy," On Politics, June 5), as did a Star-Advertiser editorial ("Solar tax credits may be too
costly," Our View, June 7).

Rich Kahle, current chairman of the Council on Revenues, states that the state spent $70 million in tax credits for
renewables in 2011. Too bad he didn't also include the tax revenues collected as a result of the work generated by the
credit. He also mistakenly thinks that mandated solar water heating systems for new homes get tax credits. They
don't.

Next, the installation of PV and solar thermal has contributed substantially to the goals of the Hawaii Clean Energy
Initiative, which mandates that Hawaii run on 70 percent clean energy by 2030. The HCEI directly addresses
Hawaii's dangerous dependence on fossil fuels, which are increasingly scarce and more difficult to extract. Solar and
other renewables take the oil cost question out of the equation and make the state economy stronger. How can
increasing our energy independence not benefit everyone who lives here?

Opponents would argue that even if solar lessens our dependence on imported oil and leads to greater economic
stability, it means that rate payers who can't install renewables must pay more. This is patently false. In 2010, the
Public Utilities Commission restructured HECO through a process called "decoupling." Now, HECO's profits are not
tied to kilowatt hours (kWh) sold. Unless all renewable users removed themselves from the grid absolutely, the
installation of residential renewables has no impact on rates. Even a "net zero" home is connected to the grid and
pays the cost of grid maintenance and energy distribution.

Finally, the solar tax credit benefits the environment. For each renewable kWh installed, we avoid pumping 1.7
pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which means fewer greenhouse gases and less contribution to climate
change. As an island state, greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and sea level rise is a home-grown
concern.

Offsetting fossil fuel use also avoids the inevitable environmental destruction that comes with oil extraction,
especially in the marine environment. Clean energy is not, as stated by Brewbaker, a marketing gimmick. Rather,
clean energy is an effort to pull our heads out of the sand.

What's wrong with this picture? Tax credits generate tax revenue and support the local economy, increase energy
independence, prevent environmental destruction and combat climate change. Yet certain people want to see them
stopped. Why?

Copyright (c) Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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