Expensive Green Energy Program Saves No Energy

Published December 30, 2015

Hawaii’s Green Energy Market Securitization program (GEMS), financed with $145 million in bonds, was touted as a program to help poor  homeowners and renters obtain energy-saving technologies they otherwise could not afford. Yet, in the first ten months of its existence, despite receiving nearly 150 completed applications, GEMS has not granted a single loan.

A report by the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism submitted to the Public Utilities Commission showed the program launched in November 2014 received 149 completed loan applications as of September 30. Forty three of applications came from non-profit organizations, 41 of which were classified as “under review,” while two were declined. Another 106 came from residences, 35 of which were declined, five withdrawn, and 66 remain listed as “under review.” 

While GEMS has yet to make any loans, financial documents indicate it is spending and collecting a fair amount of money. A financial summary of the program reported that GEMS’ current assets amounted to $145,891,273.34, from bond offering, as of September 30, with expenditures topping $111,909, all for the cost of administering the program. Yet, according the Hawaii Free Press, the financial summary fails to reveal the whole story. A worksheet from Hawaiian Electric covering the period of December, 2014 through June 30, indicated the company anticipated collecting more $7,976,862.60 in Green Infrastructure Fees from utility customers, 45 percent from residential ratepayers, with the entire amount slated to pay principal and interest on the GEMS bonds. In addition, by the end of 2015, the utility will need to collect $7,940,691.56 more to fulfill “revenue requirements” for GEMS.

What this means, according to Patricia Tummons of Environment Hawaii, is “Framed another way, GEMS has cost electric ratepayers more than $15 million since November of 2014. And as of September 30, the state had not one kilowatt of renewable energy installed to show for it.” 

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.