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Defending Hawaii's Solar Advances

Solar panels on homes at Salt Lake in Oahu, Hawaiʻi.

Solar panels on homes at Salt Lake in Oahu, Hawaiʻi.

Matt Mallams for Earthjustice

What's at Stake

NextEra’s utility business Florida Power & Light heavily relies on liquefied natural gas and is notorious for blocking rooftop solar and gutting its energy efficiency standards.

Hawaiʻi, in contrast, is a national leader in solar energy, especially customer-based rooftop solar.

Overview

A coalition of clean energy groups have petitioned the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission to complete its ongoing work to plan Hawaiʻi’s energy future before considering the proposed acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries, Hawai'i's main electric utility, by Florida-based NextEra Energy. The coalition includes Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, Blue Planet Foundation, Hawaiʻi PV Coalition, Hawaiʻi Solar Energy Association, and The Alliance for Solar Choice.

NextEra’s proposal to buy Hawaiian Electric for $4.3 billion was announced in early December 2014 and will require various approvals, including by the Commission.

In recent years, the Commission has demanded that Hawaiian Electric focus on establishing a roadmap for a sustainable, customer-focused electric grid that serves the best interests of the state and people of Hawaiʻi. As the petition explains, the Commission’s numerous orders, together with enactments by the state legislature, have identified specific issues and mandated specific next steps necessary to articulate “the vision, business strategies, and regulatory policy changes required to align the [Hawaiian Electric]’s business model with customers’ interests and the state’s public policy goals.”

In August 2014, Hawaiian Electric filed proposed plans in response to the Commission’s orders. But after the Commission invited early public comments on the proposals, a flood of opposition and criticism poured in from all quarters, including the Hawaiʻi State Energy Office, clean energy and environmental groups, and the general public.

So far, NextEra has indicated it supports Hawaiian Electric’s proposed plans and has yet to reveal its full intentions in Hawaiʻi. NextEra’s utility business Florida Power & Light, however, heavily relies on liquefied natural gas and is notorious for blocking rooftop solar and also recently gutting its energy efficiency standards.

Hawaiʻi, in contrast, is a national leader in solar energy, especially customer-based rooftop solar. In just several years, the market has expanded to where currently one in nine Hawaiian Electric customers has rooftop solar.

The petition and coalition do not take a position on the merits of the proposed merger.

Case ID

2892

Attorneys

Clients

Case Updates

August 5, 2016 | Blog Post

Model For Monopoly Power Companies Needs to Change

The Public Utilities Commission rejected the NextEra-Hawaiian Electric takeover deal, but the real work to build a clean energy system by and for the people of Hawaii has just begun.

July 15, 2016 | In the News: Honolulu Civil Beat

State Rejects Sale Of Hawaiian Electric to NextEra Energy

“Outright rejection of the takeover was the only realistic option. NextEra refused to provide its plans for Hawaii, other than to give us a ‘bigger HECO,'” said Isaac Moriwake, staff attorney at Earthjustice. “Based on its opposition to clean energy in Florida and failure to chart a different path in this state, NextEra is not what Hawaii wants or needs.”