Families already grappling with high power rates face an additional burden following the announcement yesterday that power rates will go up in March.
Commonwealth Utilities Corp. chief financial officer Charles Warren disclosed that the levelized energy adjustment clause, or LEAC, will be higher this month due to the continued rise in fuel costs in the world market.
From the existing $0.29751 per kilowatt-hour charge, CUC has approved a new rate of $0.31878 per kWh, which translates to a 7.15-percent increase.
The new rate is effective tomorrow, March 5.
For the average CUC customer who uses 500 kWh a month, the adjustment translates to an increase of about $9.47 a month.
LEAC is part of the customer's bill that reflects the cost of fuel. It goes up or down to reflect the cost of buying fuel to run the power plants. The other component of the bill is the electric base rate.
The last time the LEAC rate was adjusted was in January, when CUC reduced it by 4.6 percent.
For Yolly Benavente, a mother of three from Capital Hill, the increase would mean even more stringent energy conservation for her family. They pay $175 to $200 monthly for their power.
Although she understands the rationale behind the power rate hike, Benanvente is still sad to see the rate going up, especially at this time.
“Any additional cost to the family's expenses is always a concern.so I don't think we have other way to cope with this than to continue conserving energy to avoid paying for too high for power,” she told Saipan Tribune.
As soon as he learned about the anticipated power rate hike this week, Mico Moran immediately started revising his family's budget for the month.
Moran is a father of two and they live in Lower Navy Hill. His family has been strictly monitoring their power and water usage since utility rates started going up.
He shared that from their previous four-hour daily air-conditioning use, this was reduced to three hours to realize some savings. With the new rate resulting in higher costs, he said he will have to revisit their spending plan. He cited other areas in the family's expenses such as gas and grocery that may be adjusted to cope with the added power cost. Moran's family pays an average of $120 a month for their power use.
Other CUC customers interviewed yesterday described the new rate as “not surprising” since CUC relies heavily on its own revenue for operatons. However, they remain optimistic that someday CUC's rates will be aligned with the cost in other territories and states, which are lower than what CUC charges.
CUC has about 14,000 power customers.