By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
HILO, Hawaii A new Big Island power plant that has caused four power failures in three weeks is said to be the reason for a 1.5 percent rate increase in Hawaii Electric Light Co. electric bills.
Warren Lee, president of the utility, has said his company received an interim rate increase from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission beginning Jan. 5.
Lee said yesterday he expects the rate to get final approval within two months. HELCO will gain about $2.5 million a year from the increase, which is based on paying higher costs for power to the 60-megawatt Hamaakua Energy Partners plant at Haina, which sells electricity to the utility.
Big Island residents pay some of the highest electrical rates in the nation.
Lee yesterday said he is not overly concerned by the spate of power failures caused by the power plants going off line without warning. He said the new $100 million plant is still gearing up for production. "There are bugs to be worked out in the software and with the personnel operating the plant," he said.
Lee also noted that most of the failures have been recorded in the late afternoon and evening hours when the demand is the greatest and Hamakua Energy is at nearly full throttle, forcing HELCO to shut down some circuits to protect others from damage.
He said that since the same areas of Waiakea and South Kona have been inconvenienced, HELCO engineers will shut down other areas of the island in the event of more power failures so the problem can be shared.
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