It’s no secret that electricity in Hawaii is expensive.

But Robert Harris, the executive director of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii Chapter, raised eyebrows when he spoke at a Feb. 4 hearing at the Legislature.

“Since 2009, the average electric rate has gone up 50 percent in Hawaii; the business model needs to be examined,” Harris said.

Has the electric rate really gone up that much?

Harris got the figure from the Hawaiian Electric Industries 2012 Annual Report to Shareholders. That report says that in 2009 the average revenue per kilowatt hour (kwh) sold for residential use was 23.87 cents, and by 2012 it was 36.88 cents. That is an increase of 54 percent.

In 2013 the average price was 37.27, a 56 percent increase since 2009.

The report also showed the average revenue per kwh sold for commercial use was 21.54 cents in 2009 and that it rose to 34.51 by 2012, an increase of 60 percent.

Hawaii generally has the highest electric rates in the nation (some pockets of rural Alaska are higher but the state subsidizes the bills), nearly double the next highest state, New York, according to the Energy Information Agency’s latest information, from last year.

Hawaii’s average retail price of electricity in the residential sector was 37.27 cents per kwh, meaning a typical Hawaii resident using 600 kilowatt-hours of energy per month would have to pay around $222, contributing to why the cost of living in the state is so high.

New York’s average of 18.89 cents per kwh brings the average residential bill to just $114; Washington had the lowest, at 8.81 cents per kwh.

Hawaii’s electric rate is triple the national average of 12 cents per kwh.

Why has it gone up so much in the last five years?

According to the Hawaiian Electric Co.’s website, “During 2012, the cost of fossil fuel used to produce electricity increased, resulting in electricity costs going up. The price of fuel greatly impacts your electric bill because more than 50 percent of each bill is made up of fuel costs.”

Nearly all of Hawaii’s energy — 90 percent — comes from oil-fired generation. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative mandates that the state get 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources and reduce consumption by 30 percent by 2030.

BOTTOM LINE: Electric rates have gone up more than 50 percent since 2009, mainly due to the rise in operating costs. Hawaii residents continue to pay the highest electric rates in the nation. We find Harris’ statement to be TRUE.

About the Author