The infusion of money is anticipated to help pay for operating costs, including expanded vegetation management; as well as to cover system upgrades to increase reliability, improve customer service and integrate more renewable energy.
Thanks to lower fuel prices, bills reflecting the new rates, if approved today, still would be lower than a year ago, the utility pointed out.
In 2013, with PUC approval, Hawaii Electric Light withdrew its request to increase base rates, leaving in place the same base rates established in 2010.
As part of the current review, the utility is proposing benchmarks to measure its performance in key areas, such as customer service, reliability and communication for the rooftop solar interconnection process and to link certain revenues to that performance.
Among the increased operating costs driving the rate change is an extensive vegetation management and tree removal initiative. The threat from invasive albizia trees toppling in high winds became clear after Tropical Storm Iselle in 2014 and led the company to triple its annual spending on vegetation management. Since 2014, Hawaii Electric Light claims to have spent $14 millionon tree trimming and removal, concentrating on areas where falling albizias threaten utility equipment and highways.
The utility also said it had spent more than$14 million over the past six years improving customer service systems, developing technical solutions to integrate more private rooftop solar, replacing and upgrading equipment to improve efficiency and reliability, and developing detailed plans to achieve the state’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy.