Video by David Corrigan, Voice of Stephanie Salazar
HILO, Hawaii: Residents of East Hawaii packed the Hilo High School cafeteria, to tell the Public Utilities Commission what they think about a proposed electricity rate hike and and biofuel surcharge.
This was the first of two meetings scheduled on the Big Island. The second will be on Tuesday at Kealakehe High School in Kona.
The hearing covered two separate dockets. The first is a 4.2% rate increase, at the request of the Hawaii Electric Light Company, resulting in $19.8 million in additional revenue for the Big Island’s electrical utility. HELCO says the money will be applied to renewable energy projects.
The second part of the hearing dealt with a familiar controversy in Ka’u: the Aina Koa Pono biofuel project, which proposes to harvest certain trees and plants in the Pahala area to be refined into 16 million gallons of bio-diesel for HELCO’s generation plant at Keahole in Kona.
HELCO’s parent company, Hawaiian Electric Co., and Aina Koa Pono are asking the PUC to approve a new contract that includes a surcharge that is estimated to add about a dollar to the monthly bill of an average Big Island energy customer.
This is the second time Aina Koa Pono and the utility brought such a request before the PUC. Last year, the commission denied a similar request.
The community sounded off on both the proposals.
Tuesday’s meeting in Kona begins at 6 pm. State Senator Malama Solomon will reportedly present a petition of over a thousand signatures in opposition to HELCO’s 4.2% rate hike.