- NextEra Energy defended its its proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) in a filing with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission this week, saying it is committed to Hawaii's 100% renewables by 2045 goal.
- The Florida-based company made 50 new commitments for grid improvements, customer savings and charitable giving in its filing, including faster smart meter deployment, time-of-use pricing, and the establishment of a $10 million customer benefit fund paid over four years after the deal.
- Gov. David Ige (D), the state Consumer Advocate, and other stakeholders say the utility has been uncooperative, and do not support the deal. NextEra’s filing calls the assertions "flawed, and argues that “none rises to the level of facts upon which a valid case can be made.”
NextEra plan to acquire HEI hit an unexpected roadblock in July when Ige announced that he opposes the merger.
“We need an electric company that sees Hawaii as the center of its work and the opportunity we represent as one of the greatest moments in history for any utility,” Governor Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the time. “We have not seen that in this proposal.”
Central to the governor and other critics' concerns is that the regulated utility NextEra already owns — Florida Power & Light — has opposed or slow-walked renewables, especially rooftop solar, in its service area. With Hawaii on its way to 100% renewables, the opponents say such a track record is unacceptable for the state.
NextEra's filing denies those claims. The reason FPL has only about 3,000 net metered solar customers isn't because of utility intransigence, it says, but is due to "simple home economics." Florida’s typical residential retail electricity rate is only $0.097 per kWh, the filing says, making rooftop solar uneconomic.
NextEra also committed to a slew of grid improvements and customer programs in a bid to win regulator support. If the merger was approved, Hawaii customers would all have smart meters by the end of 2019, along with dynamic time-of-use pricing, the company said. It also committed to preserve local management and not sell the Hawaii utility for at least 10 years. In all, the deal would generate nearly $465 million in customer savings and $500 million in economic benefits over the first five years following approval, the company said.
In a separate filing with the PUC, NextEra rejected requests by the Consumer Advocate to compel James Robo, its CEO, and HEI CEO Connie Lau, to testify in the merger proceedings. The companies, it said, “have provided an unprecedented amount of information and level of disclosure to the parties in this proceeding in order that they may assist the Commission in its determination of the pending issues."