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Nonprofit questions why HECO’s profits jumped in 2020 as customers struggled to pay bills

Hawaiian Electric Company
Hawaiian Electric Company(Hawaii News Now/file)
Updated: Feb. 27, 2021 at 1:10 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaii nonprofit is questioning why Hawaiian Electric saw an increase in revenues last year amid shutdowns and as many residents struggled to cover their utility bills.

According to a Hawaiian Electric Industries 2020 report, HECO saw a net income of $169 million, compared to $156.8 million in 2019. That’s a 4.5% increase in profits.

Sharon Higa, HECO senior communications consultant, said the increase in profit is due to a reduction in operating expenses and a reduction of staff.

“Our staffing count is down by about 100 positions from a year ago through a combination of layoffs and attrition,” she said.

“We also reduced operating expenses through better planning, scheduling and reorganizing work.”

The Sierra Club of Hawaii said that the increase in revenues shows that HECO should do more to help customers who are still struggling financially from the pandemic.

“This just goes to show that Hawaiian Electric does not need to collect the unpaid bills from families that can hardly get by. Electricity is an essential service that Hawaiian Electric provides,” said Marti Townsend, Sierra Club of Hawaii director. “Clearly they are in a position to do more to meet the needs of its customers.”

In a statement, HECO said:

“We are committed to keeping all of our customers connected and are working with state and local agencies to ensure that the anticipated federal assistance funds will get to people who need help. Hawaiian Electric isn’t immune to the impacts of the pandemic — the net income of our parent company, Hawaiian Electric Industries, fell 9% and revenue dropped 10% in 2020.”

HECO has also made contributions to Hawaii nonprofits in 2020, including $2 million to help thousands of households pay their utility bills.

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