Hawaiian Electric files rate increase request to recover US$7.4M in lost revenue from solar panels; typical residential bill to increase 30 cents/month on Oahu, US$1.02 on the Big Island, 96 cents for Maui County

HONOLULU , February 7, 2012 () – Savings for those with rooftop solar panels mean lost revenue for Hawaiian Electric Co., which will lead to higher electricity bills for those without them.

The electric bill savings for those who installed photovoltaic panels translated into a loss of $7.4 million that Hawaiian Electric said the utility will have to make up with an estimated rate increase of less than one-tenth of one cent a kilowatt-hour on Oahu, .17 cents on the Big Island and .16 cents for Maui County.

A typical customer using 600 kilowatt-hours per month would their bill rise by 30 cents on Oahu, about $1.02 on the Big Island and 96 cents for Maui County, Hawaiian Electric said.

Customers installed enough solar panels to HECO's grid to generate a maximum 30 megawatts of electricity last year — nearly triple the capacity installed in 2010, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/ymVOvt ) reported Monday.

Solar panel customers generate their own power during the day but still rely on the electricity grid at night. The utility must still provide those customers with electricity even when they don't help pay for fixed costs such as meter reading and billing.

"It's not equitable," said Hermina Morita, chairwoman of the state Public Utilities Commission. "It's something the commission will have to look at closely."

Hawaii's 2008 Clean Energy Initiative mandates the state achieve 40 percent renewable energy and 30 percent energy efficiency by 2030.

"Currently, the value of adding more customer-sited renewable energy and using less oil is considered to outweigh this lost contribution to fixed costs," said HECO spokesman Peter Rosegg.

The renewable energy mandate sometimes conflicts with HECO's duty to shareholders, said Rep. Cynthia Thielen, a member of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee. "This is why the utility needs to be restricted to distribution of electricity only," said Thielen, R-Kailua-Kaneohe. "It's another example of why HECO shouldn't be in charge of both generation and distribution."

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