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Big Island group explores energy co-op

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The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative is seeking a seat at the table as the Public Utilities Commission considers the proposed merger of Hawaiian Electric Industries and NextEra Energy, HIEC said in a news release Tuesday.

The new nonprofit cooperative association, registered with the state on Feb. 9, was formed by business and community leaders to explore the possibility of creating an energy co-op on Hawaii island, as was done on Kauai.

The Hilo-based co-op filed a motion Feb. 11 to intervene in the Public Utilities Commission docket on the proposed $4.3 billion merger between NextEra and HEI. But it is not taking a position for or against the deal, according to Marco Mangelsdorf, spokesman and a director of the co-op.

Instead, he said, it hopes to ensure that commissioners consider the island’s energy needs in their deliberations and the potential benefits of a co-op model, including democratic ownership and control of the island’s energy infrastructure by its residents.

“We seek to participate in the discussion of the unique perspective of the residents of our island, and if appropriate, explore an option that would make for a fundamental change in the landscape of energy production and consumption on Hawaii island,” Mangelsdorf said.

The co-op is led by its president, Richard Ha, who is president of Hamakua Springs Country Farms; vice presidents Gerald DeMello, a retired University of Hawaii administrator, and Wallace Ishibashi, a former ILWU division director; and Mangelsdorf, president of ProVision Solar, Inc.

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