Residents get $150 CUC credit
Reiterating that it does not control the electric rates in the CNMI, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. nonetheless has come up with a way to grant short-term relief to the increased cost of electric rates via a $150 credit for its residential electric accounts this July.
In the meantime, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Finance Secretary David DLG Atalig promise to continue to look into additional utility stimulus funding to give some relief to the residential community for the upcoming months.
According to a CUC announcement yesterday, it said that since the cost of power in the CNMI started increasing dramatically in April, CUC’s management team has been working diligently to identify unique solutions to assist customers with managing their electric usage and bills.
“CUC is pleased to announce that…we have been permitted to reallocate funds granted to CUC by the Governor’s Office to provide short term relief to the current [Fuel Adjustment Charge] crisis. All active residential electric accounts will be credited $150 for the month of July,” the news release states.
The Fuel Adjustment Charge, more commonly referred to as the FAC, is the cost that CUC pays its supplier for fuel used to generate electricity. CUC said that, in fact, the FAC billed to its customers is “even less than the actual cost that CUC pays its fuel supplier. CUC does not benefit financially or retain any of the FAC.”
In explaining its increasing power rates, CUC said that the rates are established by the independent Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission and are composed of two distinct charges: the base rate and the FAC. The base rate, which has not changed since 2014, includes a monthly service fee and a rate which ranges between $0.021 and $0.158 per kilowatt-hour depending upon how much energy is consumed by a customer during a monthly billing cycle. The FAC is used to buy fuel.
“CUC is aware of the unprecedented increase in FAC based upon current world events, including the global pandemic and war in Ukraine. CUC employees are also customers and feel the same burden as all consumers in the CNMI,” CUC said.
It said the CUC management considered several alternatives to provide temporary relief within the confines established by the CPUC, including FAC deferment and the one-time credit.
CUC executive director Gary Camacho said that credit has more benefits than outright deferment. “Deferment is not a fiscally responsible solution for our customers. Deferment simply pushes the customer’s current obligations into the future. In a volatile market where future fuel rates are unpredictable, deferment could result in even greater increases spread amongst a smaller customer base,” he said.
A credit, on the other hand, is a true solution providing actual relief to customers versus deferring FAC costs that would still need to be paid at a later time, he added.
The CUC news release assured that its leadership continues to look for additional solutions for long-term relief, including educating customers on energy conservation to help reduce electric bills, replacing existing engines with more efficient technology, and advancing CUC’s renewable energy initiative for a more sustainable CNMI.
Customers still struggling with their bills are encouraged to visit one of the CUC Customer Centers on Saipan, Rota and Tinian where representatives are available for consultation.