comscore Power bills going up a few cents

Power bills going up a few cents

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Hawaiian Electric Co.’s residential customers will pay an average of 71 cents more per month starting in January to fund a wide range of energy-saving incentives.

Last year HECO customers were paying an average $2.86 per month into the "public benefit fund." Starting next month the fee for an average residential customer, defined as a household using 600 kilowatts of electricity per month, will rise to $3.57, according to the Public Utilities Commission, which approved the hike. The average payment was $1.19 a month when the fund was launched in 2009.

The average charge for the utility’s customers on Maui also will rise to $3.57 a month, while customers on the Big Island, Lanai and Molokai will pay $2.97 a month into the fund.

The latest increase is the equivalent of 1.5 percent of Hawaiian Electric’s projected revenue next year, up from 1 percent in 2010.

Money from the fund is used to pay for various incentives, including rebates for purchases of solar water heaters, energy-efficient appliances and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Customers are expected to pay $35.6 million into the fund next year.

The fund, administered by a private contractor, was created to take over energy-efficiency programs previously overseen by Hawaiian Electric Co., the state’s largest electric utility.

HECO collects the amount from its customers and passes it along to Science Applications International Corp., the company contracted to run HECO’s energy-efficiency efforts. SAIC operates locally as Hawaii Energy.

The state Office of the Consumer Advocate and HECO recommended the amount collected be increased to 1.5 percent of revenue in 2011 and 2012, and 2 percent of revenue thereafter.

In a separate proceeding, the PUC is reviewing whether the planned increases will be sufficient to meet the state’s energy-efficiency goals. That ruling isn’t expected until sometime after July 2011, according to the PUC.

State officials have set a target of reducing energy consumption by 30 percent over the next 20 years through efficiency and conservation programs. That is in addition to a goal of generating 40 percent of the state’s energy with renewable sources by 2030.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs were the largest single contributor to the program’s energy savings in its first year, with more than 1 million bulbs accounting for 50 percent of energy reductions, according to Energy Hawaii’s annual report.

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