The Department of Taxation recently released its report on state tax credits claimed in 2017, the most recent year for which the state has complete data.

For at least the seventh straight year, the Renewable Energy Technologies Income Tax Credit made up the largest percentage of all two dozen tax credits. In 2017, $83,143,000 was claimed under this tax credit, which came to 25.9% of the total.

Starting in 2011, $756,440,000 has been claimed under the tax credit with a peak in 2012 of $179 million which came close to half of all tax credits claimed. Since 2012, fewer dollar credits have been claimed each subsequent year along with the percentage declining over time: 2012: 48.4% ; 2013: 37.7% ; 2014: 35.2%; 2015: 32.4%; 2016: 29.7%; 2017: 25.9%.

Certainly three-fourths of a billion dollars to promote renewable energy across our islands is anything but chump change, and those of us in the industry should welcome a discussion on the merits of continuing to fund solar, wind and other clean energy sources from the general fund.

In fact, the case for maintaining this kind of public support to wean ourselves from the ongoing costly, and risky dependence on imported oil is just as strong today as it was decades ago when this tax credit first started.

Large solar farms are helping wean Hawaii off fossil fuels. The Legislature should now consider enacting a tax credit to support battery storage for renewable energy systems. Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2019

Have we made progress over the years? Absolutely.

Are we anywhere close to where we need to be? Absolutely not.

For all the self-congratulatory pats on the back that we give ourselves for how far we’ve come and accolades from mainland organizations and publications for being clean energy- and utility-progressive, the reality of where we still are has my hair on fire. As in, our state is still, after 40-plus years of tax credits, laws, initiatives, symposia, conferences, speeches, governors, legislatures, Public Utilities Commissions and all other energy stakeholders, more than 80% dependent on imported oil.

Getting Off Oil

No one can legitimately say that we haven’t been serious about tackling our collective vulnerability to imported fossil fuels.

That said, we need to be orders of magnitude a lot more serious in our efforts to getting off oil with reducing or even ramping down the Renewable Energy Technologies Income Tax Credit when the Legislature opens for business this month.

In fact, one obvious and beneficial thing that our elected representatives can do is, after failing to do so the previous past four sessions, enact a new credit to support the addition of energy storage to existing renewable energy systems.


Because an exponential increase in energy storage across our grids is just as important as adding new renewable generation if we’re to achieve the infrastructure reliability and resiliency that’s urgently much needed.

We’re running out of time when it comes to making deeper, more substantive progress in getting off of this state’s addiction to imported oil.

If anything, Hawaii and all of its state agencies and institutions need to be more supportive of efforts to bring clean, cost-effective renewable energies and storage on-line.

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