Residents upset with proposed HELCO rate hike


A review of testimony submitted last month to the state Public Utilities Commission reveals overwhelming opposition to proposals by Hawaii Electric Light Co. to increase its electricity rates next year.

“Many homeowners and business owners that I am in contact with, including our business and home, are already suffering from the cost of HELCO’s electricity prices and are on the edge of bankruptcy,” wrote Keaau resident Richard M. Fuller.

One proposal calls for generating an additional $19.8 million in revenue via a 4.2 percent rate increase. HELCO says the extra revenue is needed to fund system upgrades and maintenance for its electric grid, as well as the inclusion of more renewable energy technologies. If the entire amount is approved by the PUC, it would add approximately $8.32 to the average, 500-kilowatt-hour monthly electric bill on the Big Island.

Pahoa bed-and-breakfast operator Petra Wiesenbauer said that electric rates are putting the pinch on small businesses.

“(The rate increase) will increase the cost of doing business for me and infringe on the viability of my operation,” she stated. “The nature of my business requires for electricity to be available to our guests.”

Bill Walter, president of W.H. Shipman Ltd., questioned the timing of the increase, pointing out that Hawaii Island ratepayers pay four times the national average for electricity, and 25 percent more than Oahu customers.

“Hawaii Island residents include among the most economically challenged in the state of Hawaii,” he wrote. “While certainly not the only reason, the high cost of power works to keep our residents economically challenged. Why?”

A second proposal would initiate a biodiesel supply contract with Aina Koa Pono-Ka‘u LLC and a related biofuel surcharge to customers to offset the costs brought about by the contract.