- Hawaii lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require NextEra Energy to show "substantial net benefit" to customers before state regulators can approve its $4.3 billion takeover of Hawaiian Electric Industries, KHON-TV reports.
- NextEra has filed more than 85 commitments to Hawaii that it pledges to fulfill if the takeover is approved, with some $1 billion in customer savings and benefits, but some critics believe the utility's energy vision isn't good enough.
- The bill fails to define what a “substantial net benefit” is, and the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission is already tasked to consider the public interest, HEI told KHON-TV. A proceeding on the proposed $4.3 billion deal is ongoing and a decision is due after June 3.
As Hawaii regulators continue to hear testimony on the proposed merger, lawmakers in the state rolled out House Bill 2567. NextEra's bid to acquire HEI has been fraught with obstacles, and this latest one is appears to demonstrate increased skepticism from elected officials that the deal is good for Hawaii.
During the PUC proceedings this week, former Arizona utility regulator Kristin Mayes said NextEra's plan failed to show a “strong tangible…vision of the utility of the future."
Many critics worry NextEra will rely heavily on utility-scale renewables to meet the state's 100% renewable energy mandate by 2045, rather than supporting distributed generation that has become popular with residents looking for relief from the nation's highest power prices. Recent numbers from U.S. Energy Information Administration show 89% of Hawaii’s solar is distributed generation.
Adding fuel to the debate, a recent Civil Beat poll showed more than half of Hawaii residents scattered across all demographics want the PUC to reject the deal, with two-thirds believing rates will actually rise in 10 years despite assurances to the contrary.
NextEra has defended its track record on distributed generation, saying the references to its Florida subsidiary, which has come under scrutiny in the proceeding because of its low integration of rooftop solar, are a bad fit because of the differences in electrical rates.
"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," NextEra Spokesperson Rob Gould told Pacific Business News.