FACT CHECK — HECO: Japan Tsunami Keeping Hawaii Electric Rates High

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Hawaiian Electric Co. has launched a media campaign to explain to residents why their electricity bills have remained at record highs for months.

In television commercials, Robbie Alm, HECO's executive vice president, says that the tsunami in Japan is the main cause.

In a clip posted on the electric utility's website, Alm says:

It's complex, but the main reason is in the wake of that devastating tsunami nuclear energy has largely been replaced by oil, sending oil prices in the Asia-Pacific region skyrocketing — and these prices aren't coming down anytime soon.

Here's the video:

In Hawaii, the majority of electricity generation is derived from oil, and residents are used to volatile prices, but this is something different, according to Alm.

“With historic trends, the price spikes up and equally spikes down,” he told Civil Beat. “This is really the first time we’re talking about close to a year of sustained high prices. It’s like we’re in a different situation and that’s why we felt that we should tell customers.”

Since 2010, monthly electric bills have risen by 50 percent.

Unrest in the Middle East and northern Africa sent oil prices climbing early last year. But prices for benchmark crude, such as West Texas Intermediate and Brent, which generally correlate with oil prices, began falling in May. In Hawaii, this hasn't been the case.

Alm said that Hawaii prices follow those in the Asia-Pacific region.

He referred Civil Beat to Fereidun Fesharaki, an international oil export and senior fellow at the East-West Center, to verify the claim.

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