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HELCO customers seeing lower electric rates


Customers of Hawaii Electric Light Company are seeing slightly lower electric bills due to new base electric rates, which became effective April 9.

Actual savings will vary by electricity usage and customer type. A typical residential customer using 500 kilowatt-hours will see their monthly bill decrease by approximately $4.

The new base rates replace rates that had been in effect as a result of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission’s interim decision in HELCO’s 2010 rate case, which went into effect in January 2011 and were reduced slightly in January 2012. Those rates reflected a 1.5 percent interim increase, or $5 million in revenues.

On Feb. 8, 2012, the PUC issued its final decision in the case, requiring the calculation of adjustments to the approved amount going forward. The adjustments reflect lower depreciation expense proposed by the utility and a lower rate of return due to the implementation of a new method of calculating rates called decoupling.

The PUC recently approved the detailed 2010 rate case calculations, finalizing and reducing the increase already in place to 1.3 percent, or $4.5 million in annual revenues going forward.

The 2010 rate case, filed in 2009, was requested to help pay for more than $200 million in capital improvements that are already serving customers. Some examples include HELCO’s steam generating unit at Keahole, which generates power using waste heat from two existing generators rather than using oil, and two West Hawaii transmission line upgrades.

The rate case also covered increasing operations and maintenance costs for the island’s electric system. HELCO’s original request was for a 6 percent increase, or $20.9 million in revenues.

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