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By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 2) – The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. is implementing this month the highest electric fuel rate so far at 22.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. Unless one conserves power, this could translate to an additional $30-$40 on the average household's power bill.

CUC spokesperson Pamela Mathis told Saipan Tribune yesterday that the May fuel rate is the highest rate ever since the utility agency adopted new power rates in July 2006.

Mathis attributed the high rate to increased prices from Mobil Oil, decreased fuel efficiency, and under-recovered fuel costs from previous rates.

The previous highest fuel rate was 21.9 cents per kWh in September 2006.

Mathis said consumers are being charged the new rate beginning yesterday. This will be reflected in the bill that customers will get in June.

"We want to tell them now, not just because it's the regulation but also so they can conserve as much as possible," she said.

Based on their calculations, Mathis said most residential customers use under 1,000 kWh per month. A lot of them, she said, use between 900 to 1,000 kWh.

For those customers, Mathis pointed out, the May rate will mean an additional $30-$40 on their bill, unless they conserve.

"If they use the exact same amount of electricity for the 31-day [cycle], [the additional cost] will be between $30 to $40. That will be the increase for residential customers who use under 1,000 kWh per month," she said.

Mathis said that fuel prices are not going down, CUC is using power plant 1 "quite a lot" and is using power plant 4 at full capacity.

"Those are the smaller engines that are not as efficient," she said.

Using the May fuel rate, residential customers will be assessed 23.8 cents for the first 500 kWh; 28.8 cents for the next 500 kWh; 30.8 cents for the succeeding 1,000 kWh; and 34.9 cents for each kWh consumed in excess of 2,000 kWh.

Commercial customers are charged a monthly fee of $7.67. Under the May rate, they will be assessed 30.8 cents per kWh.

A flat monthly rate of $7.67 applies to government agencies under the permanent rate regulations. The government's new power rate using this month's rate is 31.3 cents per kWh.

Customers categorized as "non-conforming load" because of their erratic usage are assessed a flat fee of $56 monthly. With this month's rate, the new charge will assess them 44.4 cents per kWh.

The April fuel rate was 19.1 cents kWh.

The February and March 2007 fuel rate at 18.8 cents kWh was the lowest since the utility agency adopted the new power rates.

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