CNMI POWER BILLS TO CLIMB $34 A MONTH

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Utility needs to raise $3.8 million for projects

IPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 7, 2011) –Consumers are expected to pay a higher rate for electricity after the Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission approved the proposed increase in electric base rates yesterday.

The CNMI government owed the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. $4.6 million as of April 28, 2011, representing 876 individual accounts.

In April, CPUC approved CUC’s proposed levelized energy adjustment clause, or LEAC, rate of $0.34426 per kwh. This means that a residential ratepayer using 500 kwh per month has to pay an additional $34.02 every month.

With the new base rate, a CUC customer consuming 500 kwh per month will also see a monthly increase of $2.52.

For commercial users, the base rate increase is $35.39 a month.

But because of the CNMI’s worsening economy, a new residential lifeline customer class will be established for low income customers.

The commission asked CUC to submit the lifeline program eligibility standards on or before June 15, 2011 for its approval.

Today, CPUC Chairwoman Viola Alepuyo is expected to sign the order for the new rates so that CUC can achieve the projected $3.8 million in annual revenue it needs to implement the requirements of the federal stipulated orders.

In an interview, CUC chief financial officer Charles H. Warren said they were grateful the commission approved the proposed base rate increase.

"We have a lot of deferred repair in the power plant and this is the money we’ll need," he said.

Alepuyo said she wants June 7 to be the effective date of the new rate.

She said CUC should also come up with a solution to the constant rate increases by considering alternative energy sources that are more cost-efficient.

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