Rate rise for Big Isle electricity sought
Larger customers would pay more under the plan
HILO » The Big Island electric utility plans to ask the state Public Utilities Commission for a rate increase of about 10 percent next spring, the company announced yesterday.
The increase will be in a "tiered" structure that will increase rates for large electrical users more than for small users, Hawaii Electric Light Co. officials said.
The company also announced that it would probably not seek to develop another power plant using fossil fuels such as oil.
"Keahole (North Kona) should be the last fossil-fuel power plant on our island," Helco President Warren Lee said. "At this time, I can foresee no circumstances under which we would seek to construct a new fossil-fuel plant."
Instead, as needed, the company will seek more power from geothermal energy, wind, burning of biomass, and hydroelectric, as well as using conservation measures, Lee said.
Mayor Harry Kim issued a statement saying the company's emphasis on alternate energy and a break for small users were the result of talks he had with the company.
"In submitting an increase, Helco was challenged to present a proposal that would in some way meet the challenge of reducing dependency on fossil fuel, have rates that would encourage conservation of energy and make Helco a better partner with the community," Kim said. "They have now developed a system that does this."
Despite the expected overall 10 percent increase, most residential users would see increases in the range of 3 percent to 7 percent, Lee said.
All residential customers would also be asked to pay a "minimum bill" per year, a requirement that would mostly affect people who own a Big Island home but live there only part of the year.
The proposed structure would also encourage customers to take advantage of solar water heating, Lee said. The company is also looking at larger incentives for solar water heating, possibly buying solar units for installation on customers' homes, he said.
The next power plant the company builds would be one supplying 16 megawatts using waste heat from two oil-fired 20-megawatt plants at Keahole that started up in 2004, company officials said.
Two wind power plants under way are 10 megawatts from Hawi Renewable Development in North Kohala and 20 megawatts from the Apollo wind farm near South Point.
Helco's last rate increase was 4.86 percent in 2000.
Once filed, Helco's rate request would undergo extensive review and the earliest it would go into effect would be 2007, the company said.