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Sunday, July 24, 2011
MECO to seek 6.7% Rate Hike to pay for Windfarms
By News Release @ 3:18 PM :: 7961 Views :: Kauai County, DHHL, Energy, Environment

KAHULUI, Hawaii, July 22, 2011 -- /PRNewswire/ -- Maui Electric (MECO), subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. (HEI) (NYSE: HE), today filed a request for a rate increase with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for Maui County customers in 2012. The increase would cover the cost of improvements to integrate additional renewable energy and improve the reliability of service to its Maui, Lanai and Molokai customers.

If approved, the request would result in an increase of 6.7% or $27.5 million in net revenues. Any increase, if granted, would not go into effect until mid-2012 at the earliest.

If the full amount requested is granted, the monthly increase would vary by customer depending upon customer category and the amount of electricity used. Based on the tiered rate structure approved by the PUC in January which rewards customers who use less electricity with lower rates, a typical bill for residential customers on each island would increase by approximately $13 a month. Typical monthly residential electric bills would increase to $243 (Maui - 600 kilowatthours), $243 (Molokai - 500 kilowatthours) and $241 (Lanai - 500 kilowatthours).

"We know that any increase is difficult for our customers," said MECO President Ed Reinhardt. "It is critical that we continue to make investments that will enable us to add more clean energy to our grid and ensure service that our customers can continue to count on."

More than 15% of the electricity sold by MECO in 2010 came from renewable sources. In addition, more than 1,200 solar and wind systems have been installed under the company's Net Energy Metering program. MECO will also begin integrating an additional 21 megawatts of wind energy from the new Kaheawa Wind Power II project in early 2012.

The requested increase would help cover the operations and maintenance costs of safely and reliably integrating existing and future renewable energy resources into MECO's three isolated, island electrical grids. Also included are energy storage projects which will help integrate even higher levels of variable resources such as wind and solar, including:

  • A battery energy storage system at MECO's Wailea Substation; and
  • A energy storage system on a distribution circuit in Central Maui.

The increase would also help pay for more than $80 million in investments to be completed in 2011 and 2012 including:

  • Upgrades and improvements to generation facilities on Maui, Lanai and Molokai that will increase efficiency, improve service reliability and help to reduce emissions;
  • Replacement of aging underground electric lines and equipment to increase service reliability in Central, South and West Maui;
  • Upgrades to underground electric lines and equipment that will add capacity to MECO's electrical system; and
  • Installation of fiber optic equipment at the Maalaea Power Plant that will improve communication and data acquisition and provide greater reliability of service.

The PUC is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposed 2012 increase later this year and an evidentiary hearing next year. An interim increase may be granted within 10 to 11 months following MECO's application; however there is no guarantee of such interim increase. The timing and amount of any increase is at the discretion of the PUC.

MECO's last increase was a 3.3% interim increase which went into effect in August 2010.

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