EXPRESSING CONCERN WITH HIGH ELECTRIC BILLS, west Kaʻū's member of the state House of Representatives Jeanne Kapela signed a letter along with a dozen other Reps and seven state senators to Public Utilities Commission Chair Leodoloff Asuncion. The letter also went to PUC Commissioners Naomi Kuwaye and Colin Yost, Consumer Advocate Dean Nishina, Hawai'i Chief Energy Officer Scott Glenn, and Hawaiian Electric Company President and CEO Shelee Kimura. Kapela was the only elected official covering Kaʻū to sign it.
"While the letter points to O'ahu customers "dramatic increases on their electric bills," it addresses the
|Rep. Jeanne Kapela asks the|
PUC to incentivize the electric
company to move faster off oil.
The letter says, "Although the utility and the Public Utilities Commission cannot control global oil prices, oil price volatility is a known cost of our reliance on oil that HECO and the PUC must proactively plan for and aggressively minimize and eliminate."
"On O'ahu the increase in electric rates is related to the closure of the coal plant creating an increased reliance on oil. The letter blames "the failure of the utility to bring fixed-price renewable projects online in time to meet the energy needs....which has further amplified the impact of high oil prices on customer bills.This debacle highlights the need for PUC leadership and action to prevent such burdensome bill increases that many of Hawai‘i families simply cannot absorb."
The lawmakers address "how the PUC can work with the legislature to promote further progress on this priority concern." Their letter also points to a recent Honolulu Star Advertiser interview with the PUC chair who stated that, “The PUC cannot simply mandate that the utilities stop charging this longstanding pass-through to customers and says, "This is not entirely correct."
According to the letter, more than 16 years ago, the legislature amended Chapter 269 to clarify that “...any fuel pass-through clause must fairly share the risk of fuel cost volatility between the utility and customers, as well as provide the utility with sufficient incentive to lower its fuel costs and shift to
The lawmakers call for the PUC to "significantly increase HECO’s responsibility for fuel costs under the Energy Cost Recovery Clause, so that the utility has a fairer and stronger incentive to stabilize and reduce energy costs and maximize the use of cheaper renewable energy sources."
The letter sates, "As the PUC transitions HECO to performance-based regulation (PBR), utility profit is increasingly tied to performance standards, including customer equity and affordability.
"Clearly, HECO has performed poorly on the key outcome of customer affordability, by failing to move with urgency and diligence toward bringing lower cost renewable energy onto the grid and pursuing other strategies to mitigate the bill impacts of fuel cost volatility.
"HECO should share in the financial consequences of this failure by assuming a greater share of fuel costs. Further, to lessen the impacts on customers, including the substantial number of Hawai‘i families qualifying as low- and moderate-income, the PUC should consider adopting an asymmetrical approach to fuel cost sharing, in which the utility shares more of the burden when fuel costs rise.
"Thus, the commission should also consider pursuing penalties for, or sharing of, the increased costs today caused by the failures to timely acquire and interconnect new renewable projects.
"The first and best option to reduce oil dependence and customer bill increases due to oil price volatility is to bring new renewable projects with fixed contracts online as expediently as possible.
"The utility should be held accountable when they fail this obligation.
"As part of the planning in advance of the coal plant closure, the PUC instituted mechanisms to track the increased costs from the switch to HECO’s oil-fired plants.This tracking mechanism provides the PUC with the information to determine how the utility should share in these cost burdens.
"In sum, the undersigned formally request that the PUC tie HECO’s profits directly, materially, and systematically to its performance on managing fuel costs.
"In addition to considering a penalty for performance this year and increases in utility sharing of fuel costs, the PUC should formulate a concrete plan, deliverables, action steps, and incentives to improve HECO’s performance in protecting their customers from increased fuel costs in the future. We look forward to your response and follow-up actions on this priority issue and are also interested in working with you on legislative initiatives that may help support these goals."
|Mauna Loa Crater and old lava flow. Photo by Sebastian Blank|
Last week, lava continued to erupt from the western vent within Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Sulfur dioxide emission rates remain elevated and were last measured at approximately 700 tonnes per day (t/d) on Oct. 22. Seismicity was elevated but stable, with few earthquakes and ongoing volcanic tremor. Over the past week, summit tiltmeters recorded two deflation-inflation (DI) events. For more information on the current eruption of Kīlauea, see https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/kilauea/recent-eruption.
Mauna Loa is not erupting and remains at Volcano Alert Level ADVISORY. This alert level does not mean that an eruption is imminent or that progression to an eruption from the current level of unrest is certain. Mauna Loa updates are issued daily.
Last week, about 250 small-magnitude earthquakes were recorded below the summit and upper elevation flanks of Mauna Loa—the majority of these occurred at shallow depths less than 15 kilometers (9 miles) below sea level. Global Positioning System (GPS) measurements show continued ground deformation consistent with inflation of a magma chamber beneath the summit. Gas concentrations and fumarole temperatures at both the summit and at Sulphur Cone on the Southwest Rift Zone have remained stable over the past week. Webcams show no changes to the landscape. For more information on current monitoring of Mauna Loa, see: https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/mauna-loa/monitoring.
There were six vents with 3 or more felt reports in the Hawaiian Islands during the past week: a M3.3 earthquake 14 km (8 mi) S of Fern Forest at 6 km (4 mi) depth on Nov. 2 at 8:03 p.m. HST, A M2.1 earthquake 10 km (6 mi) NE of Pāhala at 30 km (19 mi) depth on Nov. 1 at 2:03 a.m. HST, a M3.9 earthquake 7 km (4 mi) SSE of Waimea at 11 km (7 mi) depth on Nov. 1 at 1:17 a.m. HST, a M3.5 earthquake 9 km (6 mi) E of Pāhala at 32 km (20 mi) depth on Oct. 31 at 3:38 a.m. HST, a M2.6 earthquake 4 km (2 mi) S of Volcano at 2 km (1 mi) depth on Oct. 28 at 12:16 p.m. HST, and a M3.0 earthquake 2 km (1 mi) SW of Volcano at 20 km (12 mi) depth on Oct. 27 at 12:19 p.m. HST. Visit HVO’s website for past Volcano Watch articles, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa updates, volcano photos, maps, recent earthquake info, and more. Email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov.
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