Reenergize Honolulu’s building code: Bill 25

A big part of making our climate future livable is ensuring that homeowners and renters have access to affordable energy while ending our dependence on fossil fuels. Bill 25 is a big opportunity to make that happen. 

UPDATE 1/22:

We need reinforcements at the City Council on Thursday at 10AM for the Zoning and Planning Committee for Bill 25. What started out as a no-brainer energy efficiency bill that also advanced EV-ready parking and solar water heating, took a turn for the worst last night when competing amendments were proposed. Industry advocates and real estate developers are attempting to severely water down this clean energy bill. 

Your presence is crucial on Thursday because the vote count in the committee is extremely close. One champion for the environment, CM Joey Manahan, is traveling and will not present at the hearing. That leaves CM Tommy Waters and CM Brandon Elefante, who have been great environmental champions in the past, to carry this issue. CM Kobayashi introduced the extremely weakened version of the bill preferred by developers, but she may still be persuaded that a strong Bill 25 is an investment in Honolulu’s future. This leaves the chair of the committee, CM Ron Menor. He needs convincing to support the strongest possible energy efficiency, solar water heater, and EV-ready parking requirements. And that is where you come in. 

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Submit testimony in support CM Elefante’s CD2 (it’s agenda item 7, Bill 25) , sample testimony below
  2. Submit a letter to the Star Advertiser (it can be your testimony)
  3. Show up to be counted on Thursday at 10AM on the second floor of Honolulu Hale (530 S. King Street). Wear your favorite climate crisis t-shirt! 

Background, the short version is:

Environmental CD 2 (introduced by Elefante): 

  • A city solar water heater requirement that is fully consistent with state law
  • Requires all new construction be PV-ready 
  • Requires all new construction be built to offer Level 2 EV charging; with reduced specifications for retail and affordable housing structures

Developer CD 2 (introduced by Kobayashi):

  • No independent authority for the solar water heater mandate, so if the state abolishes the requirement then it would disappear at the City level as well
  • No PV-ready requirement
  • EV-ready parking only required to be a trickle charger; nothing required at commercial buildings and affordable housing structures 

The entities advocating against Bill 25 are the same corporations that developed Koa Ridge and Hoʻopili. That’s right, the same developers that fought so hard to build massive housing projects on our best agricultural land — the same developers that promised to make these projects the most sustainable on the island — are now working overtime to undermine whatever sustainability requirements they can. It is outrageous.

From our review of the data, requiring new construction to be built with the future in mind (wired for level 2 EV charging, equipped for PV installation) saves significant costs on future-retrofitting while not significantly increasing the cost of current construction. Similarly, authorizing the City to follow through on the state’s solar water heater mandate saves homeowners a lot of money on their monthly electricity bills, while not significantly increasing the cost of housing or putting the gas company out of business. For the solar water heater mandate, there is a variance process for homeowners that really would prefer a gas water heater in their home. 


Sample testimony:

Aloha Chair Menor and members of Zoning, Planning and Housing Committee, 

Our climate future is not unknown but it is uncertain. We know that our climate is in a crisis and will continue to be unless we take drastic action to reduce our carbon emissions. That is why I am writing to you today in strong support of Bill 25 CD2 introduced by Council member Elefante. 

Honolulu is a leader in many climate policies and its residents have high expectations for the future of Oʻahu. Bill 25 is the next logical step in our island’s progress toward a livable, stable climate future. Some of our expectations for the future of Honolulu are that:

  1. The City has its own authority to advance the solar water heater mandate consistent with state law because the science shows solar water heaters are better for the climate and the finances demonstrate that solar water heaters significantly reduce the monthly cost of living for homeowners and renters
  2. Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is ubiquitous on Oʻahu. A minimum of 25% of all parking stalls at residential and commercial facilities are EV-ready. 
  3. All new construction on Oʻahu is as energy efficient as possible. 

Contrary to what the Gas Company and developers tell people, passing Bill 25 will reduce the cost of living on Oʻahu (not increase it) because:

  • Time and again economists have shown that solar water heating significantly reduces monthly electricity bills. 
  • It is estimated that retrofitting buildings to provide EV charging is 4-8-times more expensive than constructing them with that capability built-in. 
  • Energy efficiency measures are a no-brainer way to reduce monthly electric bills for homeowners and renters

Bill 25 is an important energy efficiency bill that needs to be adopted in its strongest possible form because it sets the stage for the future of Oʻahu’s climate resiliency. 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify and for taking up this important measure at the council.

Sincerely,

<Your Name>