- The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) this week gave interim approval to new base rates for Hawaii Electric Light Company, the company's first base-rate increase in more than six years.
- The increase will add about $5/month to the bill of an average customer using 500 kWh.
- The 3.4% increase allows the utility to connect almost $10 million in additional annual revenues. HELCO officials say it will go towards grid upgrades and an "extensive" vegetation management program.
If a hefty revenue increase seems like a lot for vegetation management, note this: Since 2014, HELCO has spent more than $14 million on tree trimming and removal, concentrating on areas where non-native trees threaten utility equipment and highways.
The interim decision is the result of a settlement reached last month between the utility and the Hawaii Division of Consumer Advocacy. HELCO's original rate request had been 6.5%.
The decision is only an interim one, and could be changed. The PUC will continue to review the case and will issue a final decision at a later date. Customers would be refunded any difference if the final amount is lower. If it is higher, the new rate will not be retroactive.
The utility leads the state in the use of renewable resources: Since 2010, Hawaii Electric Light has increased the use of renewables from 35% to 57%, as of June 2017.
Regulators have been cautious about rate increases, especially as they push utilities to meet the state's ambitious 100% renewables by 2045 mandate. For instance, the PUC reluctantly accepted parent company HECO's Power Supply Improvement Plan, after rejecting it twice over fears of cost.
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly said the grid modernization plan was rejected twice.