Monday, November 08, 2010


HELCO Rate Hike Denied. Employee Discounts Discontinued

By Henry Curtis

On November 3, 2010 the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission denied Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) a rate hike (Regulatory Docket 2009-0164)

“HELCO is a monopoly and is not subject to significant competitive pressures that would limit how much it could charge its customers and force it to control its costs. Therefore, the commission's regulation must serve as the check on the utility's spending and costs which are ultimately borne by ratepayers. HELCO's request to have its ratepayers fund increases in wages and salaries and a high proportion of employee benefit costs in the current economic environment is inappropriate and unreasonable. ...The commission also instructs HELCO to promptly remove from its rate schedule, with no grace period, Schedule E and all related language found elsewhere, which provides an electricity rate discount to HELCO's employees (full-time and retirees).”

By way of analysis, several years ago it was determined that Kauai Electric Company /Kauai Island Utility Coop (KIUC) offered its employees 1/3 off their electric rate. This meant that the employs did not feel the pain that their ratepayers felt. In addition, since the electricity price was lower, the utility employees used 1/3 more electricity per household that their ratepayer counterparts.


In 2009 HELCO filed an application with the Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission requesting a rate hike. There are only two parties in the docket: HELCO and DCCA’s Consumer Advocate (supposedly representing us the ratepayers).

Rather than questioning HELCO’s witnesses under oath, as they are legally entitled to, the Consumer Advocate reached an agreement with the utility. On September 16, 2010 this joint settlement was filed with the Commission. Thus the Commission rejected a joint Consumer Advocate-HELCO settlement.

The Consumer Advocate, as is often the case, on issues ranging from palm oil to feed-in tariffs, likes to surrender without a fight. They even signed the Energy Agreement with the utility (Oct 2008) calling for automatic approval, decreased rights of intervenors, and allowing the monopoly to enter into unregulated areas to compete against the private sector.

The Commission has three members. Chair Carlito Caliboso and Commissioner Cole issued the opinion, while Commissioner Kondo issued the dissent. This Commission breakdown is also common.

Henry Curtis
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Who is the so-called 'consumer advocate'? I'd like to know just who is supposed to be representing us?

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