MECO announces its plan for refunds

Maui Electric Co. announced its plan Tuesday to refund $7.8 million, plus interest, to its customers on Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

The refund will be in the form of a credit on customers’ bills, the utility said.

The reduced amount on future bills stems from a May 31 ruling by the Public Utilities Commission on MECO’s 2012 rate case, awarding it an annual rate increase of 1.29 percent, or $5.3 million. Prior to the final ruling, Maui Electric had charged an interim annual rate hike of 3.16 percent, or $13.1 million, for electricity.

The commission’s ruling on a lower rate has led to the refund for customers.

The amount refunded per customer could vary depending on how the PUC rules on requests filed by Maui Electric last week. In those filings, MECO sought:

* An opportunity to provide information to be included on the record through an evidentiary hearing.

* Clarification of the accounting treatment for certain costs.

* Reconsideration of the reduction in the rate of return on equity that is used to determine electric rates.

* A suspension of refunding only the amount related to issues raised in the company’s filings.

If the PUC grants Maui Electric’s request for a partial suspension of refunds, the amount returned to customers would be less than $7.8 million set by the commission’s final decision.

A typical Maui customer using 600 kilowatt hours per month would be refunded about $30, while a typical Molokai or Lanai customer using 400 kilowatt hours would get $24.

Any additional refunds would depend on the PUC’s rulings on Maui Electric’s latest filings.

Former customers during the time when a higher interim increase was in effect will be eligible for the refund. Information will be released later for refunds for those customers.

Maui Electric anticipates that it will start issuing refunds in September and complete the process by the end of October.