Maui Electric Rate Increase Due to Renewable Energy Plans

June 3, 2014, 8:38 AM HST · Updated June 3, 9:46 AM
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Sharon Suzuki. Photo courtesy MECO.

Sharon Suzuki. Photo courtesy MECO.

By Wendy Osher

A rate increase went into effect on June 1 for Maui Electric Company customers under an order issued by the Public Utilities Commission last week.

Company president Sharon Suzuki said that while any increase is difficult, the action will help to pay for more than $100 million in new capital projects that help ensure the company can deliver clean, reliable and safe energy for customers.

Currently, “more than 50% of our customers’ electricity bills are tied to the price of fuel and we’ve been working hard to reduce that dependence. We’re finding ways to add more renewable energy and lower any long-term fuel costs,” said Suzuki.

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The estimated increase on Maui for a customer that uses 600 kWh per month is $4.90; and the estimated increase on Lānaʻi and Molokaʻi for a customer that uses 400 kWh per month will be $3.27.

The sales decoupling mechanism that was approved by the PUC is described as a policy step to support the utility’s efforts to reduce dependence on imported oil.

One of Maui Electric’s efforts aimed at this goal is the installation of a battery energy storage system to help integrate more variable renewable energy like solar and wind.

Maui power. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Maui Electric Company Kahului substation. File photo by Wendy Osher.

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“We are heading towards a future for Maui County that includes even more clean energy. As we map out a comprehensive and sustainable energy plan, it must include addressing the way photovoltaics have grown at an incredible rate that put Maui, and Hawaiʻi, on the map as the nation’s leader in PV installations,” said Suzuki.

Currently, there are more than 5,000 PV systems in place in Maui County. Suzuki said Maui Electric looks forward to increasing that amount as part of the island’s energy future.

“Our plan to retire the Kahului Power Plant in the next few years is another step towards making Maui less dependent on fuel,” said Suzuki. “Making that critical shift to a more modernized grid will mean balancing the transition to less oil and pursuing more renewable energy sources — all the while safeguarding what our customers need today — reliable, affordable power,” she said.

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