FACT CHECK – Hawaii has the Highest Electricity Rates in the Nation

Sophie Cocke/Civil Beat

Hawaii residents often hear that the state has the highest electricity rates in the nation. It's an assertion that you hear in many forums and is being repeated frequently as Hawaii grapples with moving toward more renewable energy sources, including the much-talked-about Big Wind project, solar tax incentives and the biofuels contracts that Hawaiian Electric Co. is trying to line up.

"The cost of electricity in Hawaii is generally higher than on the U.S. mainland because the electric systems on each island are independent," HECO says on its website. Hawaiian Electric is the state's major electric utility, providing power to Oahu, the Big Island and Maui County.

Electric rates are generally expressed in a price per kilowatt hour, and Civil Beat compared the residential rates in Hawaii to other places on the mainland. We reviewed national energy reports and talked with utility officials across the country to see if any place had higher rates then the Hawaiian Islands.

First, we surveyed electric rates in Hawaii.

Last month, prices on Oahu hit a record high of 33 cents a kilowatt hour. And Oahu’s electricity rates are lower than on the neighbor islands.

In October, on Lanai, residential rates were 44 cents a kwh; on Molokai and Kauai, 42 cents a kwh; on the Big Island, 40 cents a kwh; and on Maui, 35 cents a kwh, according to electric company data.

We found that generally, Hawaii’s rates were more than double the national average – 27.8 cents per kilowatt hour on average versus 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour for the rest of the country in 2010, according to Electric Choice, a Texas-based energy consulting firm. That means a typical Hawaii resident using 600 kilowatt hours of electricity a month would be paying about $168. By comparison, people paying the national average of 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour would pay $69 a month.

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