- Hawaii state legislators are currently considering a series of bills aimed at increasing transparency and uncovering the potential impacts of NextEra Energy’s proposed $4.3 billion purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HECO), the state’s dominant electricity provider.
- One bill asks the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to protect the public interest in its review of the deal. Another expresses support for local ownership and control of electric utilities and local electricity generation. Lawmakers told West Hawaii Today they are concerned with ceding control of the electricity system to an out of state company and that NextEra could oppose competition from third party electric providers.
- NextEra’s filing expresses confidence the PUC will protect the public interest. The Florida-based company said media reports mischaracterize and/or omit facts about the deal which, it insists, is to create “a cleaner, more affordable energy future for Hawaii.”
Hawaiians are concerned the NextEra deal will compromise their control of the utility. One lawmaker claimed the PUC has a history of protecting utility interests instead of ratepayer interests but said the bills will expose NextEra’s intentions.
Many lawmakers believe the non-profit Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative (HIEC) should be allowed to intervene in the PUC proceeding about the purchase of HECO in order to question whether public ownership of the state’s utility might be a better option. The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative is seen as an alternative model to NexEra ownership.
The HECO utilities filed at the PUC in opposition to HIEC acting as an intervener but the commission decided to allow it. “This is definitely good news as far as the Hawaii PUC welcoming a diversity of input,” HIEC co-founder Msarco Mangelsdorf told Utility Dive.
HIEC’s published intent is explore the benefits of (1) having local, democratic control over the island’s energy infrastructure, (2) exercising community-chosen utility priorities, (3) managing electricity costs through a co-op’s tax exempt status and absence of shareholder profit concerns, (4) using its energy independence to choose more renewables, and (5) emphasizing the use of island-produced fuels.