New commissioner in tow, Hawaii PUC set to decide NextEra-HEI merger next week
- The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) decision on NextEra Energy's proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) will likely come early next week, Chairman Randy Iwase told Pacific Business News.
- Meanwhile, Gov. David Ige (D) has chosen Thomas Gorak, chief counsel to the Hawaii PUC, to replace Commissioner Michael Champley, whose term ends today.
- Gov. Ige said he refrained from announcing a replacement PUC commissioner sooner because he thought a decision would have been issued by now.
With a decision on the NextEra-HEI deal looming ahead, a new commissioner could have an impact on the merger proposal.
PUC Chairman Randy Iwase said earlier this month he expected to have a decision in hand by the end of June, but now he has told Pacific Business News that a decision is more likely to come next week. Gov. Ige, however, said he couldn't wait any longer to appoint a new commissioner to replace the outgoing Michael Champley.
“There has been more than adequate time for a decision to be issued,” Ige said in a press conference. “I waited for this time and didn’t want the appointment to affect the decision.”
Gorak, the new commissioner, worked closely with the PUC for nearly three years,and his familiarity with the proposed NextEra-HEI deal should help streamline the decision. The state Senate has to confirm his appointment while a date has not yet been set.
Most stakeholders participating in the NextEra-HEI merger proceeding have opposed the deal, with the exception of the Hawaii Department of Defense and the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Gov. Ige is among those who oppose the deal, along with the state's energy agency and consumer advocate.
Most of the opposition stems from concerns over NextEra's Florida subsidary's clean energy track record and worries that the deal would raise the island's already-high electricity rates. Hawaii plans to source 100% of its power from renewables by 2045, with critics saying Florida Power & Light's track record could hurt progress toward that goal.
NextEra announced plans to buy HEI, the parent company of HECO, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light, in December 2014. The Florida-based utility is also a top contender to bid for Oncor, Texas' largest transmission and distribution utility, after a bid by Hunt Consolidated fell through earlier this year. Some financial analysts speculated earlier this year that NextEra will withdraw from the HEI merger, possibly to pursue its bid for the Texas utility.
- Pacific Business News NextEra Energy-Hawaiian Electric sale decision targeted for next week
- Pacific Business News Governor appoints new Hawaii PUC commissioner ahead of NextEra decision
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