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State roundup for October 19

UH may freeze construction

HONOLULU (AP) — The University of Hawaii’s board is considering freezing construction to give the school an opportunity to address a half-billion dollar repair and maintenance backlog.

Board of Regents member Benjamin Kudo proposed the moratorium on Thursday.

He’s concerned that spending too much on new projects is affecting the school’s ability to take care of the rest of its buildings.

Repair and maintenance needs across the 10-campus system total $487 million. More than 80 percent is on the flagship Manoa campus, many of them dating from the 1990s.

In recent years the school has opened a $120 million cancer research center in Kakaako and has been building a $43 million information technology center in Manoa.

A few more projects are in the design phase: a College of Pharmacy building at the Hilo campus budgeted at $28 million, an administration building for the new West Oahu campus expected to cost $19 million and $32 million Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Kapiolani Community College.

“All new buildings, all new proposals, are worthy, and it’s difficult for us to say no, but at some point we have to delay or hold off and slow down so that we have a chance to catch up,” Kudo said.

Electricity rates increase in state

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii residents are paying more for electricity this month.

Residential rates rose on Oahu in October and the increase was tied to a higher cost of fuel and power purchased from independent producers, according to Hawaiian Electric Co.

Rates jumped on other islands also.

A household on Oahu using 600 kilowatt hours of electricity paid in $208.32 in October, up $5.26 from September, according to Hawaiian Electric. The newer rate is 33.2 cents a kilowatt hour.

Low-sulfur fuel oil makes up more than 50 percent of a customer’s bill, according to the utility. Hawaii residents in July paid an average of 36.6 cents a kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The national average is 12.6 cents per a kilowatt hour.

In Hawaii, rates are highest on Kauai. Homeowners paid 42.3 cents per kilowatt hour in September and 42.9 cents in October.

On Big Island, the rate increased from 40.4 cents to 41.4 cents.

Maui Electric Co. increased rates from 36.3 cents to 37.4 cents per kilowatt hour.

The high rates have led to customers using solar photovoltaic systems. Hawaii electrical utilities last year led the nation in solar energy penetration, according to a Solar Electric Power Association report. Maui Electric Co. had 5.4 percent of its customer base owning or leasing a photovoltaic solar system. Hawaiian Electric was second at 5.2 percent.



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