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Head of failed state loan program resigns

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The executive director of a failed $150 million state loan program for renewable energy resigned her post after less than a year on the job.

Tara Young, executive director of the Hawaii Green Infrastructure Authority, resigned on Thursday.

Young said she planned to leave HGIA — the office responsible for overseeing a loan program intended to help low income residents own rooftop solar energy systems — in a letter to stakeholders on Wednesday.

“A little less than a year ago, I joined as executive director with a clear goal – to develop a strategic plan to responsibly deploy the (Green Energy Market Securitization or GEMS) fund and to build an organization at HGIA with the capabilities to execute this challenging task,” Young said.

Young did not provide a reason for her resignation in the letter.

State lawmakers approved GEMS in 2013 and raised $150 million in a November 2014 bond sale. The program had a goal of lending all the money for solar and other renewable energy systems by November 2016. After a year of offering loans for rooftop solar systems, only 12 have been installed — loaning only $385,000.

Electric ratepayers paid about $21.5 million as of June 30 for GEMS, according to a filing submitted to the Public Utilities Commission on May 24. From July to the end of 2016, ratepayers will pay an additional $6.4 million.

Young took her post as executive director of HGIA in October 2015, after the two-year program already saw two interim executive directors come and go.

During her time as executive director, the program funded its first consumer solar loans.

In the letter, Young said the program made improvements to the application processes and moved forward with programs that would expand the technology accepted to receive GEMS funding, including residential energy storage and community solar.

“In response to the entirely appropriate public interest in the performance of this program, we have sought to be transparent and frank about the challenges and opportunities,” Young said.

“HGIA and our board of directors continue to believe that GEMS funds will play a transformative role in improving access to renewable energy technology and advancing the State’s green energy goals.”

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