Today, a broad coalition of environmental, consumer, and business parties joined together to praise the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission's rejection of the takeover of Hawaiian Electric utilities by NextEra Energy. Earthjustice, Hawaii Solar Energy Association, Hawaii PV Coalition, Sierra Club of Hawaii, and the Alliance for Solar Choice all joined together in this release.
Groups cited NextEra’s unwillingness to transition to a clean energy utility of the future as a primary reason why they opposed the merger. Hawaiʻi is leading the national trend toward more clean energy investments, with the goal of getting to 100% renewable by 2045. NextEra’s utility track record of investing in dirty energy and opposing rooftop solar makes it incompatible with the modern energy infrastructure that lawmakers and consumers are demanding.
"Instead of envisioning a 21st century grid that enables customer options like rooftop solar, NextEra wanted to double-down on its 'build more, pay more' monopoly business,” said Hajime Alabanza, Executive Assistant with Hawaii Solar Energy Association. "The Commission understood this isn't the right direction for Hawaii's customers."
"NextEra made this a no brainer," said Isaac Moriwake, Staff Attorney with Earthjustice. "Outright rejection of the takeover was the only realistic option. NextEra refused to provide its plans for Hawaiʻi, other than to give us a ‘bigger HECO.’ Based on its opposition to clean energy in Florida and failure to chart a different path in this state, NextEra is not what Hawaiʻi wants or needs."
The takeover faced strong opposition across the board. Governor Ige expressed his early opposition, and many elected state and county officials voiced similar reservations, or support for exploring other ownership alternatives.
Virtually every party in the PUC proceeding, including government parties and nonprofit and industry groups, opposed NextEra's proposal, and no party supported it without requiring NextEra to commit to extensive additional conditions.
The general public reflected similar opposition. Polls consistently showed a strong and growing majority opposed the takeover, and support fell even further when residents learned about NextEra's opposition to rooftop solar. At least four polls found that only about a third of the population supported the takeover. See this article, and this one. One poll showed that a staggering 83% opposed the merger when told that NextEra would oppose the further installation of rooftop solar.
"Utility executives need to understand that innovative technologies like rooftop solar, just like cellphones before it, are the wave of the future," said Robert Harris, the Alliance for Solar Choice spokesperson. "Simply selling out for a golden parachute is not a viable option for HECO executives, nor is fighting against customers trying to do the right thing for their households and the planet. Utilities need to move towards a 21st century grid that empowers customers to save money and produce cleaner power."
"Hawaii is committed to a 100% clean energy future," said Marti Townsend, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. "We need partners that will help advance our critical economic and environmental goals, and not businesses focused solely on their short-term gain."