HECO warns people about high electric bill

Robbie Alm
Robbie Alm
Kang Wu
Kang Wu

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - If it feels like your electric bill keeps going up it's because it is and Hawaiian Electric Company says brace for more increases.

It's not often companies spend thousands of dollars on television ads to give you bad news but that's exactly what Hawaiian Electric is doing as a warning before you open your next bill.

"These prices aren't coming down anytime soon."

That is a snippet of the 60 second ad running on air right now featuring Hawaiian Electric Vice President Robbie Alm admitting your electric rates have gone up fifty percent over the last year.  That's $57 more a month and that trend is going to continue.

"It was sort of like instead of having this be a month by month, open up the bill and expletive deleted, just tell the truth. We are in a period of sustained high bills we've never seen anything like it before," said Alm, in an interview at the downtown Honolulu HECO offices.

He says the Japan tsunami wiped out nuclear power in the Asia Pacific region and has been replaced with oil which has continued to spike.

"When prices are high like this what do we do? Do we proceed on with change or do we freeze and bunker in. This is the warning sign," said Alm.

Which is why HECO is pushing renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal energy.  Right now Hawaii gets 11 percent of its power from renewable energy.  The goal is to get all of it from alternative sources other than oil.

"A lot depends on resources that aren't fully explored yet but in theory certainly," said Alm.

"The process will be very long. Don't expect any quick change, quick fix to the problem we have," said Kang Wu, energy expert with the East West Center.  "The infrastructure challenge is one of the reality checks we have to do to deal with this kind of issue."

Wu says 100 percent renewable energy is decades away and he agrees your electric bill will continue to rise.

"I just don't see the cost of the energy use in Hawaii will be coming down anytime soon simply because everything is related to the oil," said Wu.  "The high cost probably is still a way of life for Hawaii for a long long time."

You can expect to see HECO's unusual ad running through January.

"It's probably not media 101 to spend money to say I've got bad news but the major reaction I get from people that have seen the ads is at least you told us the truth," said Alm. "We would rather at least people be prepared for what looks like a sustained period of high prices than feel blindsided."

By the way HECO says the money used to pay for all the ads did not come from customer accounts.  It is paid for by shareholder funds.

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