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HomeNewsArchivesSenate Committee Holds Renewable-Energy Bill for Further Review

Senate Committee Holds Renewable-Energy Bill for Further Review

Oct. 1, 2008 — The Planning and Environmental Protection Committee considered and then held in committee Wednesday a far-reaching renewable-energy bill.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Louis Patrick Hill, mandates net metering of home-generated power and includes rebates for 100 percent of the cost of purchasing and installing residential solar-water heaters and 25 percent for commercial properties; for 50 percent of the cost of a residential wind-powered generator, up to $7,000; and 50 percent of the cost of windmills on commercial properties, up to $50,000. An earlier version offered tax credits rather than rebates and made no mention of wind. (See "Renewable-Energy Bill Remains in Committee.") Three percent of property-tax collections would be earmarked to pay for the rebates.
Steffen Larsen, a Danish photographer on St. Croix who powers his home entirely with solar panels, testified as an expert on residential solar power. Sen. Usie Richards asked if the bill would have any immediate impact.
"Oh yes, a very immediate impact," Larsen said. "I know people with their hands on their wallets, ready to buy an alternative-energy system. They know what is in this bill and are waiting for it to pass. I know one person who already bought $60,000 in solar equipment and has it sitting in a warehouse in Florida."
People are waiting specifically for the rebates, Larsen said.
A section that gives an excise-tax exemption for materials brought in to make solar-water heaters or windmills caused a minor concern with the V.I. Internal Revenue Bureau. IRB is ready to implement the tax exemption but does not have the statutory authority to regulate prices, said IRB Director Gizette L. Thomas.
"I recommend the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs … regulate that the pricing reflects the benefit of the exemption," Thomas said. "Alternatively, the reduced pricing may be used as a condition for the rebate allowances to be applicable."
A 25-page amendment was distributed to the committee, expanding and modifying the original bill presented to the committee in July, but the original bill was not distributed. The length and complexity of the amendments, along with the absence of the original bill, raised concerns with some senators.
"There is no way I am voting to move this bill out of committee today, being unable to read the amendments alongside the bill," Richards said. "I suggest we move (adopt) the amendment and hold the bill in committee, so we can all review one document with the changes incorporated."
The committee voted as Richards suggested on the amendment and the bill. Voting yea were Richards and Sens. Juan Figueroa-Serville, Carmen M. Wesselhoft and Alvin Williams. Absent were Sens. Norman Jn Baptiste, James Weber III and Celestino White. Hill, a non-committee member, attended the hearing to support the bill.
Another committee meeting will be held to review the bill again Oct. 8, Richards said.
Also held in committee was a minor Coastal Zone Management (CZM) water permit for the Jones Maritime Sailing School dock in Christiansted. The permit will allow the dock to continue to be used. The prior permit has expired. Construction on the Christiansted boardwalk limited business at the dock and permanently reduced the number of slips at the dock.
For several years during and after the construction, DPNR would not take payment from Jones Maritime because the permit was not current, so there was no specific official amount due. Dalila Patton, an attorney for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) outlined the terms of an agreement hammered out between Jones Maritime and DPNR over payment of annual permit fees and a payment plan for past years' fees, recommending the senate approve the permit.
Richards and Wesselhoft said they were dismayed the agreement did not call for full payment of past bills. Wesselhoft said she would like to have some assurance that Jones Maritime would actually have difficulty paying the full amount before waiving or reducing any payments.
The permit was held due to a lack of a quorum after Richards and Wesselhoft left the hearing.
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