ORIGINAL REPORTING: Hawaii’s Landmark Decision On Electricity Providers
'Wake up worrying': NextEra-Hawaiian Electric merger in doubt as regulators near decision time; NextEra has failed to inspire Hawaii energy stakeholders, but the merger proceeding isn't a popularity contest
Herman K. Trabish, April 6, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Since this story ran, Hawaii’s regulators rejected the proposed merger. The reason’s were reported here, as were the choices now on the table for the state’s electricity customers.
The participant briefs made public by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) from the proceeding on the $4.3 billion merger of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) and NextEra Energy revealed a group of power sector stakeholders deeply skeptical of handing over control of the state's dominant electricity supplier to the Florida-based company. Only the two companies filed with unconditional support. Of the 24 intervenors, 20 filed briefs opposed to the deal. Two took no position, and two environmental groups supported, but asked for conditions on the deal NextEra had already rejected. The companies pushed the point that the merger met legal requirements and would be "reasonable and consistent with the public interest.”
Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D), however, opposed Hawaiian Electric's plan to import LNG for electricity generation, calling it a "distraction" from work needed to meet the state's 100% renewable energy mandate by 2045. Critics such as the Sierra Club concurred.But the most important input on the merger was from state offices, such as the Office of Planning for the State of Hawaii (OPS), the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT), and the Consumer Advocate (CA) and they were similar. The merger “does not provide significant and quantifiable benefits to Hawaii’s consumers,” according to the consumer advocate's brief. The change of control “is not in the public interest,” the DEBDT brief agreed. Commissioners should take the direction set out in their landmark “inclinations” order on the future of the state's utility and lead the state to new electricity providers and “a resource mix that suits Hawaii's needs, provided by companies selected for their merits,” the OPS brief argued… click here for more