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NextEra commits to customer savings in HEI deal

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NextEra Energy Inc., the company looking to buy Hawaiian Electric Industries for $4.3 billion, said it will bring down fixed costs on customer bills and help the state reach its goal of 100 percent renewable electric power in 30 years. 

NextEra, in a filing Monday with the state Public Utilities Commission, laid out an updated offering in response to concerns presented in July by 28 groups involved in the review of the company’s buyout of HEI — including opposition from the state Consumer Advocate and Governor David Ige to the standing proposal. 

NextEra added more than 50 new commitments that would lower fixed costs on customers bills and help Hawaii get to 100 percent of its utility electrical generation from renewable resources by 2045, "if not sooner."

The commitments include customers savings of nearly $465 million and approximately $500 million in economic benefits over the first five years following the close of the merger. 

Residential customer savings are estimated to be $372 for Oahu customers over five years, with an average of $400 across the four islands. 

"We want to do the right thing by customers," said Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Hawaii in a conference call Monday morning. 

"We’re not cutting the bills in half but we are going in the right direction," Gleason said. "This is a start. This is a conservative estimate. We wanted to put an estimate out there that we felt very strongly about and what we could defend." 

The savings start the first year the sale is approved, Gleason said. 

NextEra said it has the ability to accelerate Hawaii’s renewable energy transformation. 

"We are totally committed to get Hawaii to 100 percent renewables by 2045, if not sooner," Gleason said. 

In July, Gov. David Ige opposed the sale in its current form because he was unsure whether NextEra was the right company to help the state reach its 2045 goal. In the filing, NextEra said it commits to fully support the Hawaiian Electric Companies as the utilities work "to achieve the 100 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard consistent with the RPS law." 

NextEra said that rooftop solar and other distributed energy would be critical to the state’s 100 percent goal. The company said it would help modernize HECO’s grid by introducing smart meters and including time-of-use rate options. Depending on the sale’s approval, NextEra said it expects full deployment of smart meters to be complete by Dec. 31, 2019. 

"He expressed a concern about whether were committed to 100 percent renewables," Gleason said. "We are 100 percent committed to renewables and we always have been." 

The company also addressed the concern that the company is based in Florida. The company reaffirmed its commitment to maintain HEI’s current level of corporate giving of at least $2.2 million annually for the next 10 years. The promised local, independent advisory board would include representation from Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island. 

"Most people are very focused on NextEra Energy being from the mainland," Gleason said. "We are making sure there was a right level of local government and control. We’ve tried to address that as well including by making further commitments around the advisory board." 

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