HELCO granted rate hike

HILO — The state Public Utilities Commission issued an interim order Tuesday granting a 3.4 percent increase to Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s base rate.

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HILO — The state Public Utilities Commission issued an interim order Tuesday granting a 3.4 percent increase to Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s base rate.

HELCO estimates the move will add $4.98 per month to a typical residential bill and generate $9.9 million in additional revenue. The average residential bill was $162.58 in the past 12 months, the utility said in a press release.

The increase applies to all ratepayers.

The utility, which requested a 6.5 percent hike, says the money will help pay for capital improvements, such as grid upgrades, and removing albizia trees near power lines. HELCO says it spent $14 million on tree trimming since 2014.

The base rate was last raised in 2010.

But it’s not the PUC’s final word on the issue.

HELCO President Jay Ignacio said the interim order allows the PUC to meet a deadline for issuing an order on the rate increase proposal, filed last September.

It wasn’t immediately clear when the interim hike will take effect. If a lower increase is later approved, customers would receive a refund, according to HELCO. A higher rate would only impact bills going forward.

HELCO said the interim decision is consistent with the settlement it reached with the state’s consumer advocate last month.

Ignacio said the only disagreement that remains is the return on equity for capital improvements. HELCO wants 9.75 percent, while the consumer advocate recommended 9.5 percent.

He said the PUC sided with the consumer advocate in the interim decision.

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The higher percentage would generate $11.14 million in additional revenue for HELCO, rather than $9.9 million, Ignacio said.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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