- Kristin Mayes, former Arizona utility regulator and expert witness for Hawaii County, told Hawaii regulators during hearings on NextEra Energy's proposed $4.3 billion takeover of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) that NextEra's vision for the future of Hawaii's grid is inadequate, the Pacific Business News reports.
- While Mayes acknowledged FP&L’s financial strength and its experience with utility-scale renewables, she said NextEra failed to present a “strong tangible…vision of the utility of the future” and argued slow integration of distributed solar by NextEra subsidiary Florida Power & Light (FP&L) demonstrates “open hostility to customer-sited energy and technologies…”
- NextEra has filed over 85 commitments it would fulfill to Hawaii if the takeover is approved, including customer savings and economic benefits of over $1 billion for the first five years after the deal is finalized.
Merger opponents argue that NextEra’s emphasis on utility-scale renewables works against Hawaii’s preference for distributed generation to meet its 100% renewables by 2045 mandate. Recent U.S. Energy Information Administration numbers show 89% of Hawaii’s solar is distributed generation whereas utility-scale solar is 60% of cumulative U.S. solar capacity.
“It scares me [and] it’s unrelenting [to see the] repeated, open hostility to customer-sited energy and technologies on the grid edge [that FPL has shown],” Mayes said at the hearings, according to the news outlet. Mayes is the former Chairwoman of the Arizona Corporation Commission. Her term ended three years before the contentious first round of net metering debates in the state.
But NextEra spokesman Rob Gould told the Pacific Business News that comparing FP&L's rooftop solar track record to what it would do in Hawaii is a bad fit because the barrier to distributed solar in Florida is simple: "Our customers pay electric bills that are the lowest in Florida and 30% below the national average."
“It makes absolutely no economic sense for Florida Power & Light customers, who are about to see their fourth rate reduction in 16 months, pay the thousands of dollars required for a rooftop solar system,” he added.
A recent Civil Beat poll found that more than half of Hawaii residents across all demographic categories do not want the merger approved, with 66% of all those surveyed believing that rates will be higher in ten years if the deal goes through despite NextEra's assurances to the contrary.