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Commissioners missing deadline on Hawaii utility merger


    Randy Iwase, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, listens at the NextEra hearings at the Blaisdell Center on Feb. 2.

The chairman of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission says the regulatory body isn’t making a decision about a proposed merger between Hawaiian Electric and NextEra before today’s deadline.

Without that decision, either party can now walk away from the deal. To do so, Florida-based NextEra would have to pay $95 million.

Commissioners are reviewing thousands of documents to decide if the merger is in the public’s interest, said Randy Iwase, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission.

“It’s the sale of the only major utility company servicing this state,” Iwase said. “Unlike the mainland, where if the grid goes down you can get help from elsewhere, we don’t have that here. We’re out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”

The three-person panel is deciding whether Hawaiian Electric and NextEra have proven they can deliver on 18 different issues, including whether the sale is in the best interest of the public and whether NextEra is fit and willing to perform the duties, he said.

NextEra is one of the country’s largest electrical utilities and owns a major wind and solar energy company, while Hawaiian Electric supplies power to 95 percent of Hawaii’s population. The two companies announced NextEra’s plans to acquire Hawaiian Electric in December 2014, and valued the deal at $2.6 billion, or $4.3 billion including the assumption of Hawaiian Electric’s debt. The Public Utilities Commission held nearly two dozen days of public hearings on the proposed merger.

“Just because you’ve gone out on a first date doesn’t mean you have to go get married, take the first suitor that comes,” Iwase said. “That suitor has to be willing and able, and what has been offered for this sale to the people of this state that has to be in the public interest. We have to protect them. We have to protect the ratepayer, and we’ve got to be comfortable with the idea that this sale is good for the people of Hawaii.”

Iwase says the commission might make a decision this month.

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    • yeah, try to soak me, to completely concede to all of your demands. Only if TheRail was thought of li dat in it’s completion of the deal to start it.

  • “The three-person panel is deciding whether Hawaiian Electric and NextEra have proven they can deliver on 18 different issues, including whether the sale is in the best interest of the public and whether NextEra is fit and willing to perform the duties, he said.” How do you validate these two very vague measures? Of the other 16, what are some of the more objective issues?

    • The 3 person panel is 2 former democratic politicians and 1 party stooge.
      The PUC, like every other state board exists only to deflect public criticism from the real decision makers, the democratic party leadership. We have some of the best politicians money can buy right here in Hawaii.

  • Attention Star-Advertiser editors and writers: “merger”and “acquisition” are not interchangeable terms. NextEra would remain the sole parent company and acquire 100% of HEI, which will become a wholly-controlled and non-publicly-traded subsidiary. NextEra and its hired PR mavens try to portray this as some type of “merger” whereby NextEra and HEI combine amicably into one new company. Nothing could be further from the truth. HEI will be only a “unit” and NextEra can try to divest itself of that unit in the future to whomever it pleases. Remember, as its own executive described it, HEI is just a “snack” in the “buffet” at which NextEra plans to feed.

  • How Iwase and his thoughts about the ratepayer, people of Hawaii, public interest, makes me feel like he is talking in circles. Get me off of this merry-go-round.

  • Randy Iwase is demonstrating discretion and the best interest of the people of Hawaii. The best thing Ige did was appoint Iwase to this influential position.

    • Do you really believe that? How naive you people are. Heco is just about the most politically connected company in the state. They give the democrats 2 million a year in campaign money thru a super pac. When Connie calls, Ige answers the phone.
      If Nextera fails to get PUC approval, they’ll have to pay 95 million. Do you really think they would agree to such terms if they didn’t already know the outcome of the PUC review? You assume that the PUC and the Democratic party will act in the best interests of Hawaii’s people. Sadly, you are wrong, they’ll do what’s in their own best interests and that of the party. This deal was approved before Connie even announced it to the public. Hawaii has the most corrupt executive and legislative branches of government in the Country. That’s what you get with 50 years of one party rule.

      • Just so you all know, Nextera gave 9 million to Florida lawmakers last year. Florida has the same PUC regulated monopoly system for electricity distribution as Hawaii. The Democrats are probably drooling over how much more money they’ll get out of a larger monopoly power company.

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