HECO: Rate increase needed to cover rising costs

Published: Feb. 23, 2017 at 2:53 AM HST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2017 at 12:19 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Your electric bill could be going up this year if Hawaiian Electric Company's rate hike request gets the OK from the state Public Utilities Commission.

Hawaiian Electric, which last had a rate hike in 2011, is seeking a 7 percent increase to its base rates.

Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light companies are also filing for rate increases this year.

"We're looking for about over $100 million in additional revenues per year," said HECO president and CEO Alan Oshima. "That would equate to between $8 and $9 per month, if fully approved, in an average residential customer bill."

Hawaiian Electric normally files for a rate hike every three years, but it didn't seek one in 2014, during the failed merger process with NextEra Energy. However, HECO said costs have gone up in six years, and those increases have had to be absorbed.

But some public interest groups said electric bills have already gone up through other charges, such as those for fuel costs and other surcharges.

"Since your total bill is the rates plus these nine other items, it's not an accurate reflection to say that this is the first (rate increase) in six years," said Henry Curtis, of Life of the Land.

One customer told the commission that he opposed the rate increase, and added that he was disappointed with HECO's reliability and its lack of communication with customers.

"To me, HECO is a dinosaur and it should be replaced," said customer Yuri Farrant.

Hawaiian Electric is also dealing with the increase in the number of rooftop solar systems since the last rate increase in 2011.

"Six years ago, 5,000," said Oshima. "Today, on Oahu, 55,000. And overall statewide about 70,000 in our area."

Oshima said the utility plans to allow more rooftop solar systems to meet the goal of having 100 percent renewable energy in Hawaii by the year 2045.

The PUC may still adjust the rate increase, which would not take effect until at least the second half of this year.

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