- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s plan to make solar energy available to the masses by creating a community program has not taken off after two years of deliberation.

This has led to the state’s wealthy residents being the ones reaping solar benefits, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/2rHifxS).

The governor’s community solar law was signed in 2015, but has yet to help homeowners. In addition, a loan program designed to help make energy more affordable for low-income families is also floundering.

Community solar allows renters to pay a set amount per month in return for a share of the electricity produced by a solar farm.

Mark Duda, principal at Distributed Energy Partners, said a community solar program is necessary to break the barriers of entry.

“Historically, you’ve needed in one way or another to own or control property in order to participate in rooftop solar or bill-offsetting programs; (community solar) breaks that linkage,” Duda said.

The loan program raised roughly $150 million through a bond sale but has lent less than 2 percent of the funds to date - missing the original goal to have issued all of the funds by the end of November 2016.

Another large barrier to solar panels regularly being installed on roofs is the state’s low homeownership. Only about 57 percent of residents own their homes in Hawaii. Renters are essentially out of luck when it comes to benefiting from solar.

The only incentives that have seen success have gone primarily to the wealthy, Hawaii Chief Economist Eugene Tian said.

From 2011 to 2014, about 43 percent of residents who claimed the state’s renewable-energy tax credit made more than $100,000, an income bracket that accounts for 14 percent of the population.

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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