Iwase glad he rejected NextEra
Eight months after the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission rejected Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc.’s $4.3 billion bid to buy the state’s dominate electric utility, Commission Chairman Randy Iwase said he feels good about the decision.
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KAHULUI >> Eight months after the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission rejected Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc.’s $4.3 billion bid to buy the state’s dominate electric utility, Commission Chairman Randy Iwase said he feels good about the decision.
Speaking at the annual Maui Energy Conference on Wednesday, Iwase said when he looks back on the NextEra decision, “It’s just something you feel, ‘OK. That was good.’
“It was based on the fact and the law. They (NextEra) did not meet their burden of proof. They did not show public interest would be advanced if that merger was approved,” Iwase said during the conference at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
The public concern voiced at listening sessions held around the islands about the sale made it even more important to scrutinize the case to make sure the public interest was met, Iwase said.
The PUC rejected Next-Era’s proposed purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries in July on a 2-0 vote with Iwase and Commissioner Lorraine Akiba voting against the sale and Commissioner Tom Gorak abstaining.
On other topics, Iwase said his agency has doubled its staff size, growing to 60 members from 30 since January 2015.
With the added staff, Iwase said, he plans for the PUC to accelerate its decision making on energy decisions including Hawaiian Electric Co.’s five-year and 30-year renewable energy power plans; concerns about the lack of building permits for solar systems connected to batteries; community solar farms where the public can invest in a share of a large solar array; and demand response programs (by which the cost of electricity is lowered during off-peak hours).
HECO President Alan Oshima also spoke at the conference. “The company is changing,” he said. “We’re doing it internally, because we do recognize that our customers are demanding something different … one of the things I would like to hear acknowledgement of is the company is changing.”
Oshima said that some of the changes include building a marketing department for the electric utility’s new business products and services, as well as including a variety of technology in their energy mix.
“We are creating what I would call the ‘right brain’ of the company to be more creative, nimble, (and) reactive to customers,” he said.
The conference was kicked off by Gil Penalosa, founder and chairman of 8 80 Cities and World Urban Parks, which advocates building cities that are good for 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds. During his keynote speech, Penalosa spoke about cities that prioritized transportation other than traditional gas vehicles by increasing public transportation access and opening the street to the public with sidewalks and bike paths.
“It’s not very sustainable when we have 80 percent of the people moving in private cars,” he said.
The first day of the three-day energy conference ended with a panel on nuclear energy in Hawaii, where panelists weighed the prospects for nuclear energy as an option for Hawaii to meet its clean energy goals.
The audience and panel concluded that nuclear energy in Hawaii is a nonstarter for at least a decade.
“Advanced nuclear has a potential future that Hawaii should consider, however it is a very significant uphill battle,” said Alexander Gilbert, co-founder of SparkLibrary, a Washington, D.C.-based research and consulting firm. “To have nuclear here you need to have the consent of the state and the people.”