Now that the Public Utilities Commission has rejected the NextEra acquisition of HECO, what’s next for our electric utilities? Pacific Business News Editor in Chief A. Kam Napier has more.
Last Friday, the PUC gave its long-awaited answer to whether or not Florida-based NextEra Energy could buy the three utilities currently owned by Hawaiian Electric Industries.
The answer was no. On Monday, both parties agreed to call off discussions. Now it’s time for HECO and the Maui and Big Island utilities to get back to normal life — which means figuring out how they are going to meet the state’s mandate that 100 percent of their energy come from renewable sources by 2045. This task just became more difficult for them, as the utilities were counting on investments and expertise from NextEra to make the transition. One thing that will help — the $90 million break-up fee that NextEra now has to pay to HEI, plus up to $5 million more to cover expenses associated with developing the merger. This is money HECO says it will apply to clean energy projects.
The ownership question isn’t entirely settled. On Maui and the Big Island there remains public interest in pursuing municipal or cooperative ownership. The state Legislature has budgeted $1.2 million to study these alternative ownership models for the Neighbor Island utilities.
And there remains the possibility that some point, some other outside company may acquire our utilities. Names that have been passed around include everyone from Google to Warren Buffet. But speculation has been running so rampant that this week, HEI broke from usual policy of not discussing such matters to declare that it is talking to exactly no one about a merger at this time.