As you can see from the photo, which shows my personal Maui Electric Company refund, it is indeed a tidy sum. A very tidy sum. So tidy, in fact, that the $.77 printed on it barely justifies the postage used on the envelope that delivered it into my hands.
“On May 31, 2013, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a final decision for Maui Electric Company [MECO]‘s 2012 rate case, resulting in a refund for electric customers,” stated a letter dated Oct. 1 that accompanied my check. “In accordance with the PUC’s decision, Maui Electric Company calculated a refund based on the cumulative amount of electricity used by customers between June 1, 2012 and July 31, 2013. This was the period during which the higher interim increase was in effect.”
Ah, the interim rate increase. See, back then MECO had been charging customers an “interim” annual rate increase of 3.16 percent ($13.1 million, according to a June 19 Maui News story). But then the PUC got involved, and said some things about making sure quality service was a higher priority than financial returns.
“Hawaii should have financially healthy electric utilities,” PUC Commissioner Michael Champley said in a statement, according to the June 4 Maui News. “[H]owever attractive financial returns are not a utility entitlement. Instead, excellent utility performance with affordable rates and superior customer service should drive utility financial performance.”
The PUC then set MECO’s annual rate increase at a mere 1.29 percent (roughly $5.3 million). That ruling led to MECO’s big refund, which The Maui News said would total $7.8 million.
“A typical Maui customer using 600 kilowatt hours per month would be refunded about $30,” The Maui News reported on June 19, “while a typical Molokai or Lanai customer using 400 kilowatt hours would get $24.”
If this is MECO’s way of calling me atypical, then it’s well played, MECO. Well played.