- During Hawaii Public Utility Commission (PUC) hearings on the proposed $4.3 billion Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI)-NextEra Energy merger, NextEra executive Bryan Olnick said that HEI subsidiary Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) will delay completing its $300-350 million smart grid expansion until early next year, the Pacific Business News reports.
- HECO completed the first phase of the smart grid implementation early in 2014 by installing about 5,200 smart meters for residential and commercial customers, and adding 160 direct-load control switches, fault circuit indicators, and remote-controlled switches to its Oahu distribution system.
- Olnick, vice president of distribution operations with NextEra subsidiary Florida Power & Light (FPL), said details of the smart grid buildout by HECO had not been submitted to the commission because it requires a more in-depth analysis.
During the interchange in the hearings, Hawaiian Public Utilities Commission chair Randy Iwase told NextEra's Hawaii President Eric Gleason that there is no evidence NextEra Energy and FPL have sufficient expertise in rooftop solar to serve Hawaii, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat. The Aloha state has the most rooftop solar per capita in the U.S., while Florida has very little in comparison.
Gleason said that Florida’s smart grid is an indication of what NextEra has to offer Hawaii. He cited FPL’s experience in installing and managing smart meters because the Florida utility became one of the first U.S. utilities to complete a smart grid rollout after finishing its $800 million grid modernization in 2013.
NextEra and FPL personnel are now working with the HECO smart grid team to develop a detailed plan. But environmental and technological issues means that HECO “needs to do a thorough review and more in-depth analysis,” Olnick said. “They need a couple more months to put a thorough plan in place.”
Hearings on the proposed merger are scheduled to run through December with the PUC expected to issue a decision by June 2016.