No hikes in ASPA electric base rates since 2010, says board chairman

The American Samoa Power Authority “takes seriously its customers ability to pay and has worked hard to reduce its costs to keep electric rates affordable,” wrote ASP A board chairman Fonoti Perelini Perelini in a letter to Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga.

The governor had written to the Board late last month, questioning the cost of electricity — at 40 cents per kilowatt hour — after he received public complaints which were identical to those lodged with lawmakers.

Samoa News last week received three more complaints alleging hikes in electric rates, without any public notice, although Samoa News publishes on a monthly basis, a paid advertisement from ASP A, which shows the rates for the month.

In his letter, Fonoti pointed out that ASP A constantly strives to provide local residents with the lowest possible electricity rates. And compared to other utilities in the Pacific, “our rates are at or below the average”, he said, adding, “countries that best our rates have large sources of hydroelectric generating capacity, which is substantially cheaper than any generation method, including solar and diesel.”

Fonoti explained that the electric base rate has not been changed since 2010 and is $0.0974, $0.1065 and $0.0896 per kWh for residential, small general, and large general customers, respectively.

Additionally, the fuel surcharge format has not been changed since 2005 and is a pass through cost that varies from month-to-month depending on demand, fuel costs, engine efficiency, and line losses.

He said the installation of the new generators at the Satala Power Plant and stable fuel prices “has allowed us to keep this charge to under $0.20 for the past fiscal year.”

Fonoti provided a summary of the monthly rate history for FY 2017.

“Clearly, the total rate for electricity for any rate class has NOT reached or come close to the 2013 threshold of $0.40 per kWh, as being reported by a growing number of the public,” he wrote.

According to the board chairman, ASP A “prides itself on being transparent and considerate of the rule of law.” For example, bills sent to customers prominently display the “Electric System Rate” they are being charged.

He explained that “Current Charges” on the bill include a per meter service charge of $6.00, $5.00/$10.00 and $25.00 for residential, small general (single phase/three phase), and large general service. In the future, ASP A plans to break out the per meter service charge from the “Current Charges” for more clarity.

Another example of transparency, is that a monthly “Fuel Surcharge Notcation” is published in the Samoa News, as well as the ASP A website and Facebook page.

“Besides announcing the fuel surcharge, the notification also publishes a one-year rate history for residential customers,” he added.

Fonoti reminded the governor that like all ASG departments and authorities, ASPA must comply with local requirements, as mandated under local law — holding public hearings prior to amending or repealing any rule — before implementing new rates. He also cited in the letter provision of the law requiring public hearings.

ASP A executive director Utu Abe Malae told senators during a hearing on Oct. 4 that there is no rate increase and ASP A must hold public hearings before imposing any hikes.

(See Samoa News Oct. 5 edition for details.)

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