State seeks $1M to pay electricity bill
Like most Hawaii residents, the state is feeling the effects of record-high crude oil costs in the form of rising electric bills.
The state has requested $1 million in emergency funds from the Legislature in order to meet increased electricity costs.
"We're keeping our consumption pretty level," state Comptroller Russ Saito told members of the House Finance Committee yesterday. "It's just the cost of oil has gone up."
Crude oil prices have retreated since reaching into triple digits early last month, but still are trading in the $90-a-barrel range for 2008. Crude oil traded in the $60 range about a year ago. Utilities that import oil to generate power typically pass the cost increases through to consumers.
In the first five months of the 2008 fiscal year, the average monthly electric bill for buildings and facilities assigned to the Department of Accounting and General Services was $698,000, up from the 2007 fiscal year average of $620,000. The monthly average for fiscal year 2006 was $572,000.
Last year the state requested an extra $626,000 to meet rising electricity costs.
Without the emergency funds this year, the department says it is expected to run out of electricity money by May.
A shortfall could mean a cutback in government services or late payments to vendors, resulting in fees that would cost the state even more, according to the Lingle administration's justification sheet for the request.
The emergency fund request is expected to be approved.
It comes at a time when lawmakers and the governor have focused attention on developing Hawaii's renewable-energy resources, such as wind, wave, solar and thermal power, to reduce the state's dependence on imported oil for virtually all of its energy needs.
Also, agencies recently announced an initiative to study 11 state buildings to determine whether electrical costs can be reduced through conservation or swapping out older equipment for newer, more energy-efficient products.
The 11 buildings contain more than 1.4 million square feet of space and consume about 33 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. Operating costs range from $2.50 to $6.27 per square foot per year.
The state is requesting $1 million in emergency funds from the Legislature to meet the costs of rising electric bills. A breakdown:
» Oahu: $650,000
» Big Island: $160,000
» Kauai: $120,000
» Maui: $70,000
Source: Hawaii State Legislature