Hawaii Solar Blog

A Fresh Look At The Progress of the GEMS Program

GEMS solar loan program

A while back, we reported about the creation of the state’s Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) program, and we thought it was time to circle back and take a current look into the program’s status.

GEMS was enacted under Act 211, Session Laws of Hawaii 2013, as a financing program that would provide low-cost capital to make solar photovoltaic systems and other clean energy improvements more affordable and accessible to underserved communities including non-profits, renters, and lower-income homeowners who may not qualify for a loan to install solar. The program is considered a key component of reaching Hawaii’s clean energy goals, currently 30 percent renewable energy by 2020, 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 (previously 70 percent clean energy by 2030 when GEMS was passed), and 30 percent reduction in 2008 electrical energy consumption by 2030.

In its first phase, GEMS is concentrating on solar PV technologies because of the islands’ strong solar market and low technology risk. Nine companies have already been approved to work on installations for GEMS program solar projects. Eleven companies are pending approval, one company was denied, and another company withdrew its application.

As of November 2015, there have been a total of about 150 applications received since the program first began accepting applications in March 2015 for nonprofits and June 2015 for individuals. Twelve applications were submitted from non-profits and small businesses, of which five have been pre-qualified, four are pending review, and three have been denied. GEMS is working on evaluating over 2.3 megawatts of solar project leads for pre-qualified nonprofit loans. Out of 106 consumer loan applications, 47 were pre-approved, 18 pending, and 35 denied.

In a new report, the United States Department of Energy recognized Hawaii, along with seven other states, for “choosing to develop and grow their clean energy markets, despite the ongoing pressure to reduce government spending.” Hawaii was specifically praised for its efforts to shift away from its dependence on oil as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative and its plan to bring clean, affordable energy to a broader demographic through the GEMS program.

Some have criticized the program for being slow (since no solar systems have been installed yet) and complained that the program is funded by the “Green Energy Infrastructure Fee” paid by all utility ratepayers. However, the DOE pointed out that the charge is less than $1.50 a month and is offset by lowering the existing public benefits fee.

Ultimately, GEMS is capable of financing the installation of over 44 MWs of energy, helping up to 30,000 underserved Hawaii consumers reduce their energy expenses, and supporting Hawaii to achieve its clean energy mandates.

To find out more about the GEMS program, click here.

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