HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The Consolidated Commission on Utilities unanimously approved a request Tuesday to increase the fuel surcharge portion of power bills from 11 cents per kilowatt-hour to 16.75 cents per kWh. If adopted by the Public Utilities Commission, an average residential customer would see their monthly bill rise by about $57.56 under the new rate.
"All our decisions are hard decisions," said Chairman Joey Duenas. "We don't have a way — you need to understand, at the end of the day we need to have fuel to operate our plants. That's a necessity...so I'm in favor of this motion."
The Guam Power Authority is projecting it will incur upward of $30 million in unrecovered fuel costs, primarily due to an inadequate rate of the fuel surcharge, known as the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause. Local law restricts how often the LEAC can be adjusted, and the utility is in the middle of a months-long process to get a change enacted.
The increase would only partially address the deficit, recovering $7.5 million of the $30 million total. An additional $15 million will be moved from other accounts to pay for oil through the rest of the fiscal year.
Before the CCU's vote, commissioner Michael Limtiaco asked if GPA had sought any assistance through the American Rescue Plan — the federal aid package that is expected to grant Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero about $600 million in discretionary funds.
John Benavente, GPA general manager, advised the commission to proceed with their decision, as he felt it was a requirement before the utility makes that request. He told the CCU he discussed the issue with the governor earlier that day.
"I know she was interested in trying to help, but right now, like I mentioned to her — we need to move forward with the (CCU) to determine what is the best...judgment and way to go and then move that to the PUC," Benavente said.
The new LEAC will be imposed from August to January. The PUC will render its final decision on the matter by the end of July.
"So between now and July, she can take some action," Benavente said. And if that happens, the LEAC rate already authorized by the CCU could change.
Duenas said any notice of funding from the ARP would be shared with the PUC, which could then approve a lower surcharge as a result.
"There is a period of time where the governor could, if she wanted to, help. And we have some time," Duenas said.
The Guam Waterworks Authority has requested about $14 million from the same funding source to mitigate its own upcoming rate increases. Benavente said he would meet with the governor about the LEAC in the next week or so.