- NextEra Energy has indicated it will not go through a second acquisition effort in Hawaii if utility regulators block its proposal to purchase Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI), parent company of the state's dominant electric utilities.
- NextEra officials made the indication in response to a question from the a Hawaii Office of Planning in the regulatory proceeding for its proposed $4.3 billion purchase. Officials had asked the company whether it would consider going through a competitive bidding process with other companies to secure the "privilege" of serving Hawaii's customers.
- The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is reviewing the acquisition in the official proceeding involving the utilities and 28 commission-approved intervenors. A decision is expected by mid-2016.
Mergers in the utility sector tend to take significantly longer than in other industries, and proceedings like the one going on in Hawaii are one reason why. The PUC has approved 28 intervenors to the case, the governor has come out in opposition to the merger, and a group of activists is clamoring for regulators to reject corporate utilities entirely and set up a public power company.
A decision in the case isn't expected until the middle of next year, and any appeals could mean more subsequent hearings.
The most important testimony so far filed in the proceeding is from the State Office of Planning because it represents the Governor’s position, Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) Senior Advisor Jim Lazar recently told Utility Dive.
“That is the inside game testimony, and it is visceral about what a bad move it was to bring in an outside corporation," he said. Ceding control of Hawaii's electric utility to Florida-based NextEra has been a chief concern of merger opponents.
The Office of Planning also asked if NextrEra stood by its commitment to not sell HEI subsidiaries for at least 10 years, even if ordered to do so by the PUC. NextEra Energy said it did.
Despite the company spending what it says is “significant funds” and “many thousands of employee hours” on negotiating the deal in Hawaii, a sizeable resident coalition has formed to oppose NextEra's takeover bid.
One group, KULOLO (Keep Utilities Locally Owned, Locally Operated) is pushing for a publicly-owned utility. Local leaders have initiated information-gathering processes to understand how they might form an electric cooperative or municipal utility to replace the HEI subsidiaries.
“We believe the Utility 2.0 model might be a publicly owned one," a KULOLO spokesperson told Utility Dive.