Court Upholds Hawaiʻi’s Solar Water Heater Mandate

Hawaiʻi is the first state to establish a goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. Honolulu, HI — Yesterday, the Environmental Court of the State of Hawaiʻi ruled that the State Energy Office of the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) was wrong in allowing “wholesale” exemptions from the state law mandate that all new single-family homes include solar water heaters. The mandate was originally enacted 11 years ago, but DBEDT has rubberstamped almost 100% of all variance requests for gas water heaters, totaling over 6,500 exemptions to date. Further, several large subdivision developments on Oʻahu, including 15,000 total units, were lining up to seek such exemptions over the foreseeable future. Earthjustice challenged DBEDT’s practice in a lawsuit brought on behalf of Hawaiʻi Solar Energy Association, the state’s largest clean energy trade association, and Sierra Club, the state’s largest environmental membership organization. The state environmental court, Judge Jeffrey Crabtree, agreed with the Earthjustice attorneys that DBEDT’s wholesale exemptions for gas water heaters were contrary to the law’s purpose of promoting the environmental and consumer benefits of solar water heating and the legislature’s stated intent that variances be “rarely, if ever, exercised or granted.” In a decision announced from […]

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