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Customer may fund initiatives for HECO

The average energy consumer could be required to help pay for Hawaiian Electric Co.’s alternative energy source initiatives, such as wind, solar and wave power.

Under a proposal before the state Public Utilities Commission, HECO and its subsidiaries, including Maui Electric Co., would be able to charge each customer about $1 a month to defray the costs involved in building infrastructure for alternative energy projects, said Hawaiian Electric spokesman Peter Rosegg.

The renewable energy infrastructure surcharge would allow MECO to build new transmission and substations for upcoming projects, such as Shell Oil’s proposed wind farm at Ulupalakua, Rosegg said. Hawaiian Electric is seeking permission from the state to start the surcharge right away so the company can begin lining up financing for future projects.

Under existing rules, utilities can’t begin surcharges until after a power source is up and running, which can take up to three years, he said.

Rosegg also said the program should make it easier for ventures such as First Wind, which until May 1 was known as UPC Wind, to secure loans for its planned expansion on the Lahaina pali.

Hawaiian Electric is also proposing to spread out the surcharge to all its customers, including those on Oahu, for projects throughout the isles, Rosegg said.

The Public Utilities Commission will hold hearings this week on Molokai, Maui and Lanai. The Maui meeting is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului. The Molokai meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at the Mitchell Pauole Center in Kaunakakai, and the Lanai meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday in the Lanai High & Elementary School cafeteria.

The Maui News

11 May 2008