- A new Honolulu Civil Beat poll shows that opposition to the proposed $4.3 billion NextEra-Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) merger is stronger than support for it across all demographic categories.
- 52% of those surveyed believe the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) should reject the deal, while only 16% do not. However, 62% of the 922 registered Hawaii voters surveyed believe the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission will vote to approve the takeover.
- Despite NextEra's promises that the merger will result in lower electricity rates, 66% believe rates will be higher in 10 years if the deal goes through. Those polled were split on whether the deal would impede Hawaii’s move to 100% renewables by 2045, with only 39% saying it would slow down progress and 35% expecting renewables growth to be unaffected.
The poll made two things clear: There is significant public opposition to the merger, and the public does not trust the PUC to listen to them and deny the merger.
The final decision on the takeover from the PUC is expected on June 3 or later. HEI shareholders approved the deal last year. The poll was published last week as the PUC resumed public deliberations on the merger, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.
About 61% of those polled said NextEra's base in Florida is another concern for them. This underscores what Jim Lazar, a senior advisor to the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP), told Utility Dive:
It's hard to see a path to profit for NextEra if the takeover is approved, he said. “Their offer is a huge premium over the book value. That isn’t unusual for acquisitions but every other one I have seen has a clear path to cost reduction that would enable the buyer to recover the premium. That is not likely for a company with headquarters in Florida and a utility in Hawaii.”
“It is also hard to see a path to the commission approving the takeover,” Lazar added. “The Governor opposes it, and the Governor decides if commissioners are re-appointed.”