Bill 58 was signed into law in late December 2020 after the Honolulu City Council voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance. It is expected to lower the overall cost of permitting in Honolulu by creating efficiencies in the permitting and inspection process.

Currently, approximately 20% of a solar system’s total cost goes towards permit processing. The measure will lower customer costs to go solar and it also allows a path for townhomes and condominium clean energy development, which have historically been plagued permitting delays of up to 18 months.

“Bill 58 is the most progressive permitting reform measure passed by the Honolulu City Council in over a decade,” said William Giese, HSEA’s Executive Director. “Chair Menor, Mayor Caldwell, and the Honolulu City Council are showing true leadership and putting Honolulu on the map for what is possible for clean energy. At the most basic level, this bill will open up the market for clean energy projects on townhomes and condos, allowing cost savings across a much greater share of Oahu residents.”

Bill 58 includes several process changes on both the review and inspection side of the permit process. Included in the measure are the following:

  • sets maximum time limits for permit approval and inspection scheduling,
  • allows inspections to be scheduled via email,
  • allows a path for self-certification under certain conditions,
  • allows a path to permit clean energy systems on townhomes and condominiums in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

The measure applies to solar plus battery storage systems under 20 kilowatts; solar thermal water heaters under 240/120 gallons for double/single tank systems; and Level 1 and 2 and DC fast-charging electric vehicle chargers.

“This law makes clean energy more affordable for all residents, and opens up rooftop solar to townhomes and condominiums,” said Robert Harris, Vice President of HSEA. “As we try to rebuild our economy coming out of COVID-19, removing unnecessary red tape is a smart way to create clean energy jobs and lower costs for everyone.”

This measure, sponsored by Chair Ron Menor of Honolulu District 9 and supported by the HSEA, the Department of Planning and Permitting, the IBEW, the Plumbers Union, and a diverse set of stakeholders, addresses several permitting inefficiencies and bottlenecks related to clean energy project development — reducing construction costs, lowering consumer bills, and creating jobs in Hawaii’s largest county.

“I am glad that I had the opportunity to introduce a measure that will further expedite the permitting process for clean energy projects such as solar photovoltaic systems. These projects are critical to our state’s long-term goal to achieve 100% renewable energy generation,” said Councilman Ron Menor, Chair of the Zoning Planning and Housing Committee at the Honolulu City Council. “Moreover, this measure will ensure equitable access for many residents in multi-family dwellings to renewable sources to meet their energy needs and enable them to achieve significant energy cost savings.”

“Climate change is a serious and urgent problem,” Menor continued. “And Bill 58 (2020), CD1 represents an important component in the City’s comprehensive effort to address this important environmental issue.”

The Hawaii Solar Energy Association and the solar industry have estimated that up to $1/watt, or 20-25% of a total solar system’s cost is attributed to permit processing. Bill 58 will help to reduce that cost by creating expedited processes for smaller sized systems and freeing up department resources for larger system review. The measure will go into effect immediately upon signing by Mayor Kirk Caldwell.