- The Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) has taken the first steps in a broad review of the state's utility sector business model, seeking a research firm to examine possible changes, the Pacific Business News reports.
- The assessment would consider varying business and regulatory models, including development of cooperative and municipal power providers.
- DBEDT, which houses the state energy office, is charged with pursuing the state's goal of utilizing 100% renewable power by 2045.
Almost three months after NextEra Energy's bid for Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) was shut down by state regulators, Hawaii appears to be moving ahead with a broad assessment of how the island produces and supplies power. It is not a new push, however. Nearly a year ago, dozens of lawmakers announced they would be examining public ownership of the grid.
Hawaii's economic development agency issued an RFP, with hopes to select a firm to lead the investigation in mid-January. The state is trying to integrate more solar and move away from expensive oil-fired power.
“Impacts of a price-volatile energy source are a significant detriment to Hawaii’s economy, business and residents’ way of life,” the RFP said. “Hawaii’s reliance on oil for power generation is a major reason Hawaii’s electricity prices are the highest in the nation. Hawaii’s dependence on imported oil also poses risks to the state’s energy security and its natural environment.”
NextEra's proposed $4.3 billion takeover of Hawaiian Electric had some doubting whether the new owner would press ahead with renewables and distributed resource integration. While NextEra Energy Resources is one of the largest renewables developers in the United States, the parent company also owns Florida Power & Light, the largest regulated electric utility in Florida, which has a spotty record with clean energy.
Hawaii has more rooftop solar per customer than any other state, and about 17% of the customers of Hawaiian Electric have installed panels. But that has led to growing pains, as the utility struggled to connect customer systems. Regulators ended retail rate net metering last year, replacing it with a pair of interim compensation programs while they tackle the issue.