- NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric (HEI) filed with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission requesting it exclude intervenors pushing for a cooperative or municipal utility from the public hearings on the proposed $4.3 billion merger of the two companies.
- The utilities asked the PUC to limit testimony and evidence presented at the November 30 hearings to whether the merger is sound, and not to consider whether ther are viable public utility business model alternatives, West Hawaii Today reports. The utilities argued the PUC has already determined that alternatives are not relevant.
- In response to the proposed deal, support for a “public option” comparable to the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has become increasingly popular in the state. “We believe the Utility 2.0 model might be a publicly owned one," KULOLO (Keep Utilities Locally Owned, Locally Operated) Spokesperson Rob Harris told Utility Dive.
Supporters of the public utility option in Hawaii told Utility Dive the NextEra filing seems to indicate that the utilities are taking the challenge seriously.
“Why specifically target HIEC and just two other intervenors on this docket?” asked Marco Mangelsdorf, president of ProVision Solar and director of the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative (HIEC), a non-profit formed to explore public utility alternatives to the NextEra takeover.
“Could it be that HIEC is considered more of a threat to the deal, warranting being singled out by NextEra? For months the PUC has been silently agnostic as to whether a discussion of the possible merits of alternative ownership models for the HEI utilities is fair game.”
It would now seem, he added, “that the commission will have to pronounce on the subject.”
The “true purpose” of the utilities' request, responded a filing from Maui County, which is also considering a public option, “appears to be to single out and exclude any proposals endorsing the creation of a cooperative or municipal utility.”
A municipal utility has two important advantages over cooperatives, according to consulting economist and regulatory proceedings expert Jim Lazar of the Regulatory Assistance Project: Access to tax-exempt financing through the issuance of tax exempt bonds and being a part of municipal operations.
HEI and NextEra maintian in their filing that the public utility intervenors are addressing issues not identified by the PUC as relavent to the merger docket, warrenting their exclusion from the Nov. 30 hearing.
“Such … information may include, but not be limited to … information concerning or relating to future plans or proposals for replacing one or more of the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ with an electric cooperative or municipal electric utility,” reads the motion, according to West Hawaii Today.