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NextEra still committed to purchase HEI despite Ige’s opposition

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2014 DECEMBER 3 BSN Hawaiian Electric Industries to Combine with NextEra Energy. Connie Lau, president and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Electric Industries and Jim Robo, chairman and chief executive officer of NextEra Energy answer questions. SA photo by Craig T. Kojima

NextEra Energy Inc. said it is still committed to buying Hawaiian Electric Industries despite the state’s opposition to the sale. 

Gov. David Ige reiterated his stance, speaking out against the sale Tuesday during a press conference at the Capitol. On Monday, the governor said he is opposed to the Florida-based company’s purchase of Hawaii’s largest electric utility and is recommending the state Public Utilities Commission reject the deal. 

“The merger, as proposed at this point, is unacceptable,” Ige said at the conference. 

Ige said the shift of control to a board of directors that is 5,000 miles away and NextEra’s failure to commit to the state’s clean energy goals were major concerns for the state. 

NextEra Energy said Tuesday its proposed purchase of HEI’s utilities is in the public interest because its promised savings and support for Hawaii’s energy goals would be in the best interest of HECO’s customers. 

“NextEra Energy and the Hawaiian Electric Companies believe that this merger truly is in the best interest of the state of Hawaii, and in particular, Hawaiian Electric’s customers,” said Rob Gould, spokesman for NextEra. “We have made commitments to employees, community causes and for the establishment of a local independent advisory board, and we will listen to and work with all stakeholders to achieve what’s best for the state of Hawaii and Hawaiian Electric’s customers.” 

Ige’s position came Monday as two state agencies were among the 28 approved “intervenors” in the case that filed testimony about the acquisition with the PUC on Monday. Most of the groups — including the U.S. Department of Defense — said they either oppose the purchase or could accept it only with conditions. 

The governor gave the company an opportunity to redeem itself, noting the early state of the PUC review process. 

“I am certain this is not the last page written on this merger,” Ige said. 

NextEra said that further review will reveal more benefits NextEra can bring to Hawaii. 

“We are optimistic that as the regulatory process continues, we will find more common ground and further demonstrate the strong public interest benefits of this merger,” Gould said. 

Gould said the company’s filings in the review process demonstrate more than $600 million in economic benefits in the first five years after the sale closes. 

HECO echoed NextEra’s position in a press release Tuesday afternoon. 

“As more information is provided throughout this process, we feel strongly that others will also conclude that this partnership with NextEra Energy will result in significant benefits for our customers and for Hawaii”s leadership in clean energy,” said Alan Oshima, president and CEO of HECO. 

Ige signed into law last month a bill that sets a goal of 100 percent of the state’s electric power coming from renewable energy sources by 2045. The governor said Monday he is not convinced NextEra is the company to get the state there. 

NextEra said it would like to boost the state’s status as a leader in renewable energy. 

“If allowed to support Hawaii’s energy goals with the Hawaiian Electric Companies, NextEra Energy and its extensive renewable energy expertise and resources will strengthen and accelerate Hawaiian Electric’s clean energy transformation as well as the company’s support for Hawaii’s goal of 100 percent of the state’s electric power coming from renewable energy sources by 2045.” 

When it applied to the PUC in January, NextEra said its resources would help speed up the 2030 energy goals HEI proposed in August, which include lowering customer bills by 20 percent, renewable energy reaching 65 percent of the utility’s energy mix and tripling rooftop solar. 

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