HONOLULU (KHON2) — Some Hawaiian Electric customers have noticed an increase in their electric bill, or they’ve noticed they haven’t been using as much electricity but they’re paying the same.

HECO said the rising cost of oil can trigger an increase in your bill.

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When the pandemic began, oil prices dropped and electric customers paid less even though they were home more.

“Then in 2021, we saw a gradual increase and now we’re seeing the highest rates we’ve seen in about seven years because of the oil prices,” explained Shannon Tangonan, HECO spokesperson.

For Oahu, rates are up to 27% higher than this time last year.

A typical residential bill using 500-kilowatt hour a month went from $140 in January 2021, to $165 in July 2021, and in February 2022 the same amount of usage will cost you about $180.

“You’ll probably be seeing higher bills, oil prices are up, and fuel prices are up,” Tangonan said. “And that does get passed along to the customer.”

She said about half of the rate is fuel costs and purchasing power from independent power producers.

“So, their costs go up as well, if they use oil,” she added. “We don’t profit from any of the fuel that we use that is just an automatic pass-through [to the customer].”

One Wahiawa resident said his bill increased by $175, but nothing has changed at his home. A North Shore resident said he’s unplugged major appliances and stopped using the air conditioner months ago and his bill hasn’t changed.

On January 27, HECO put out a notice that a typical home would see an increase of $7 from the month before.

HECO’s website states: “The cost of fuel used to make electricity can have a significant impact on your bill. You pay no more than the actual cost of fuel purchased. Hawaiian Electric does not make any profit on fuel. That means when the price of fuel goes up, the increase is reflected in your bill. But it also means that when the price of fuel goes down, those charges on your bill also go down.”

HECO said those who have opted into their time of use program should avoid using electricity during peak hours between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.

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In a statement the Public Utilities Commission said:

“The PUC examined this issue and found that the recent increase in customer bills is due to the upward trend of the increased cost of fuel and purchased power. The Energy Cost Recovery Charge is a mechanism that automatically passes through fuel and purchased power costs to customers and thus, customer bills tied to the price of fuel and purchased power. Although the mechanism is approved by the PUC, there have been no recent rate hikes so the increased bill costs can be attributed to the increased fuel and purchased power costs.”