Water bills drop slightly

Lower electricity rates will translate to slightly lower water bills for households that get their water from the county Department of Water Supply.

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Lower electricity rates will translate to slightly lower water bills for households that get their water from the county Department of Water Supply.

Starting with Sept. 1 water bills, the power cost charge on customers’ bills will decrease from $2.32 to $1.85 per 1,000 gallons of water used, the water department announced late Thursday. The adjustments were made after a public hearing in Kona on Tuesday, where no members of the public testified.

For an average residential customer using 20,000 gallons of water in a two-month period, the change will decrease costs by $9.40 over the two-month billing cycle, or $4.70 per month.

Under rules adopted by the Water Board in 2009, the power cost surcharge can be adjusted every two months. It’s applied to each 1,000 gallons of water used by the customer to account for fluctuations in the cost of energy needed to operate the water system.

The water department recently completed a study to look at the department’s current energy reduction efforts and recommend ways to achieve more savings. The department is the island’s largest customer of electricity, spending more than $22.3 million for electricity in 2014.

Among the recommendations are an initial outlay of $5.2 million, which would save more than $5.6 million annually in energy costs, and be paid for in savings over about two years, the study found.

Reducing energy use will also provide environmental benefits that include reducing greenhouse gas emissions that include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane.

“Reduction in energy use is a priority to the Department of Water Supply,” Keith Okamoto, manager-chief engineer of the department, said in a statement. “This report identifies what is working and recommends further actions that make sense financially and operationally.”

The full 271-page report can be accessed at http://www.hawaiidws.org/Hawaii%20Final%20Report%20final%208-14-2015rev.pdf.

The study was conducted by Londonderry, N.H.-based Process Energy Services LLC and paid for by Hawaii Energy, the ratepayer-funded energy conservation and efficiency program administered by Leidos Engineering LLC under contract with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

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Hawaii Energy also contributed $130,000 for the purchase of additional leak detection loggers based on preliminary data assembled by Process Energy Services and the Department of Water Supply before the draft report was completed.

The report highlighted aggressive leak detection, development of renewable energy sources, and the use of premium efficiency motors and discount Hawaii Electric Light Co. rate schedules as some of the most effective ways the department has reduced energy use. Also mentioned were suggestions in terms of energy management practices, energy supply, conservation and operational measures, as well as possible funding options.

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