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Steady electricity rates

LIHUE — A national service offering tips and strategies for relocation has announced its analysis of United States utilities costs, naming Hawaii as the highest in the nation.

But, utilities companies in the state say Move.org has their numbers wrong — that the organization has overestimated what Hawaii residents pay for electricity, throwing the whole utilities estimate off kilter.

“They made their calculations based on average monthly energy use for mainland residential customers — 800 kWh a month,” said Beth Tokioka, spokeswoman for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. “Our average residential customer uses about 500 kWh a month.”

Electric companies on Maui, Oahu and Hawaii Island all are disputing the average, as well.

Move.org estimates Hawaii residents pay $300 a month for electricity, but the actual average bill is lower than that, numbers show.

Kauai’s residential customers averaged use of 514 kWh in November and at a cost of $0.367 per kWh, the average monthly bill for a KIUC customer in November was $188.

The island’s cooperative-style setup has lowered rates since KIUC became a cooperative. In 2002, KIUC’s rates were 72 percent higher than Oahu, for example, 43 percent higher than Maui and 13 percent higher than Hawaii County.

In 2017, rates were 18 percent higher than Oahu, one percent higher than Maui and one percent lower than Hawaii County.

Since becoming a cooperative, KIUC has only asked the Public Utilities Commission for a rate change once, and that was granted in 2009. Fluctuations in monthly price per kWh are due mainly to fluctuation of oil prices, and KIUC’s renewable energy initiatives are helping with rates, according to the cooperative.

For example, the average cost of diesel was 16.7 cents per kWh in November and KIUC is getting ready to receive power from their new AES Lawai battery plus storage facility — power that will be priced at 11 cents per kWh. The facility will move up to 100 MW of power to the evening peak, directly displacing diesel.

“Our renewables are definitely keeping our rates steady, and they will continue to move in a downward direction over time as lower cost renewables take the place of diesel,” Tokioka said.

The Move.org report states the total monthly cost of utilities in Hawaii is about $730, with electricity the highest costing of the utilities on the list. The report lists national averages for monthly utility costs as $125 for electricity, $100 for natural gas, $62 for internet, $100 for cable, and $40 for water for a total monthly cost of $422.

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Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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