The power to control your electric bill
by Donica Kaneshiro | May 16, 2022
Each month when my bills arrive, I check the balance on my bank account, sigh, and pay them. It’s rare that I pause to consider my options to reduce the totals, especially with my utility bills. It’s not as if I can stop washing dishes or doing laundry.
But after talking to fellow employee Kim Kaaua, I’m taking stock of my household habits and seeing where we can make small shifts. Perhaps it will pay off for me, like it did for her.
“Before I worked at Hawaiian Electric, my electricity bill was inevitable,” Kim told me. “It will go up and it will come down. I’ve got to pay it. I have no control over it.”
Then one day while the administrative assistant in Customer Relations was in a meeting about energy usage, she had an “aha moment.”
“We were talking about how heating and cooling are major factors contributing to how high your bill goes. It dawned on me that I do have control over my electricity bill,” she said.
As a single parent of three, Kim is no stranger to budgeting, but when one of her sons started college last fall and needed help with tuition, the family started looking for ways to cut costs even more.
Kim started to apply some of her knowledge about energy usage at home.
“I’m always thinking of ways to make things better, making it my kuleana to make it better,” Kim said. “It has to start with me and it has to start somewhere. I have to make a change in order to effect change.”
She was already conserving energy during peak hours, but also began consolidating her loads of laundry and all but stopped using her clothes dryer. “I have an indoor clothesline in my garage, so even if it rains in Hilo, which it does a lot, I can still dry clothes,” Kim said.
She saw an immediate effect on her bill.
“You cut and watch your costs go down. It was enough to make a difference and I started getting excited,” she said.
She began charting the changes and sharing the information with her sons to get them to embrace conservation.
“That’s the key — educating everybody in the house, telling them our bill dropped $20, and saying thanks for keeping your lights off,” Kim said.
Conservation became a constant topic of conversation in Kim’s household as the family sought out more ways to save, from turning off fans when they left their rooms to watching less TV.
“When they get older and they run their own household, having these tools, knowing how they can save, is going to be important for them. If I can give them that head start, how awesome is that?” she said. “The earlier you start talking to them about it, they’ll have at least a little bit manao on the subject.”
The family then focused on appliance efficiency.
“My refrigerator was running more than it should, because it was really, really old,” Kim remembered. “We bought a new refrigerator and lo and behold, do you know that refrigerators are supposed to be quiet? I was worried that it wasn’t working.”
“Boom, my electricity bill went down from $160 to $140 to $120,” she said. “I saved $40 and all of that is based on me making the changes that I needed to make. It’s $480 a year that I’m going to save. That’s huge for me.”
About that time, Kim got an advanced meter installed at her home as part of Hawaiian Electric’s grid modernization initiative. She immediately signed up for the My Energy Use web portal, which gives customers online access to their energy usage information.
“AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) changed my life,” she shared. “I have the ability to go into AMI, which I do weekly, and I look at our usage. When the usage just goes up a little, I think about what we did that day was different, and then fix it, so it goes back down.”
Kim appreciated that the online portal helped her see her gains.
“It was easy, and from day one, I was hooked because it tells you in the top corner you’re using 20% or using 15% less than this time.”
“There’s so much I learned doing AMI,” Kim said. “Thinking about AMI down the line in the future, that’s going to help not just the houses on my street, but the community with usage.”
Kim can’t contain her enthusiasm when she talks to customers. She’s a true advocate for energy savings and looks forward to sharing her knowledge so that she can help others. And she learned firsthand that savings all depend on the effort each person puts into conservation.
“You’re not stopping your life, you’re just making better choices,” she said. “I can control my electricity bill.”
Donica Kaneshiro is a communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.