There’s some disconcerting arithmetic going on at the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO). It seems, according to a few recent press accounts, that alternative energy like solar power is actually costing the company so much money that they’re going to have raise rates (click here for the original Honolulu Star-Advertiser story on the issue and here for a follow-on Pacific Business News post that includes apparently more accurate rate increase info).
“The Honolulu Star-Advertiser that Hawaiian Electric says the rate increases are needed to cover fixed costs such as meter reading and billing, and that the utility is still obligated to provide electricity service to customers with PV systems even when they aren’t paying to cover those fixed costs,” reported PBN.
This raises a curious question: how much will solar power harm HECO? It stands to reason that as more households will convert to solar energy (for reasons that may even include avoiding future HECO rate hikes), then HECO’s current set-up will require it to keep ratcheting up rates on those who eschew the sun. This would also seem to make a mockery of HECO’s own website, at least where solar power is concerned:
“Solar power provides a huge boost to Hawaii’s efforts to build a clean energy future. The year 2010 was a banner year for customer-sited solar electric installations on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Maui County, more than doubling the number in 2009, and the trend in 2011 is to more than double installations in 2010.
“Hawaiian Electric Company was again named one of the nation’s Top 10 electric utilities for solar power added to its system per customer in 2010 in the Utility Solar Rankings published annually by the Solar Electric Power Association. Of 230 utilities participating, Hawaiian Electric ranked third nationally in added solar watts-per-customer.”
In other words, solar power is great for HECO, except for the fact that it’s ruining HECO.
Anyway, according to PBN, the new rate increases (for customers not using solar power) are as follows:
• 0.16 cents/kilowatt-hour for Maui
• 0.5 cents/kilowatt hour for Oahu
• 0.17 cents/kilowatt-hour for Hawaii Island