- NextEra Energy informed the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) last week that it would not pursue the proposed 15 MW Ka La Nui Solar project on Oahu. NextEra held a power purchase agreement (PPA) for the project with the Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) that was not approved by the commission.
- Though neither company revealed a specific reason to shelve the solar project, Pacific Business News reports that some have criticized the proposal, saying the PPA agreement represents a conflict of interest because NextEra is attempting to buy Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI), HECO’s parent company.
- The PUC is expected to rule on NextEra’s proposed acquisition of HEI by June 2016. The merger has faced significant opposition in the state, with the governor and a coalition of activist groups opposed to the deal.
One of the questions being raised by those who object to the NextEra acquisition is whether the Florida-based company would aim to meet Hawaii's 100% by 2045 renewables mandate by supporting distributed generation or building large, central-station renewable power plants.
Some worry NextEra's large, unregulated renewables development business may influence the company towards the latter strategy.
They could “build their own central station renewables, bring in [liquified natural gas] and drive out the opportunity for customer-sited renewables and for local third party renewables developers,” Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, recently told Utility Dive.
As Hawaii grows the share of renewables in its fuel mix from 21% today to 100% by 2045, the key question, Mikulina said, will be "who builds and owns that 80%?”
NextEra has repeatedly said that it supports renewables and distributed generation, but critics remain skeptical. They say NextEra's regulated utility in Florida — Florida Power & Light — has long opposed the spread of rooftop solar and is fighting a solar ballot proposal the industry is pushing in the state.
When the PUC denied the PPA contracts in August for the Ka La Nui Solar project, it also declined to rule on Forest City Hawaii’s 20 MW Hoohana Solar project on Oahu and SunEdison’s 50 MW SunE Waiawa project on Oahu.
It approved PPAs for four other solar installations, including the Eurus Energy America 28 MW Waianae Solar project on Oahu and three SunEdison Oahu installations totaling 109.7 MW. It rejected SunEdison’s 20 MW Mililani South PV I Oahu project.