PUC holds first of 12 hearings on potential HECO, NextEra merger

What does the future of renewable energy in Hawaii look like if NextEra Energy merges with Hawaiian Electric?

It’s one of the things the Public Utilities Commission wants to know.

On Monday, it kicked off the first of 12 hearings before deciding the fate of the deal.

Among the vocal opponents against the $4.3 billion merger is state Rep. Chris Lee. He tells us the utility companies have not been forthcoming about the costs that could come with the merger.

“We’re talking about potentially up to $30 billion in costs and this is a concern because the utilities have the ability to pass this on to consumers and that’s typically what happens,” said Lee.

But NextEra points out that whether or not the merger happens, those costs will be needed to upgrade the structure in order to reach the goal of 100-percent renewable energy by 2045.

Company executives also argue that there’s no truth to the accusation that NextEra has not been transparent.

“We have worked very hard to provide the answers that lay out what we think we can achieve here and how we can be a very good partner with Hawaiian Electric,” said Robert Gould, NextEra chief communications officer.

But the crux of the decision-making comes down to what happens in the next couple of weeks.

There will be 12 days of testimony in front of the PUC by NextEra, Hawaiian Electric, and other stakeholders in what will be a courtroom-type proceeding.

PUC chairman Randy Iwase says this is the process when only the facts will be laid out.

“Whatever’s on the record is what we have to consider we can’t go outside the record I know there are a lot of ads that are out there for or against that doesn’t apply to us,” Iwase said.

The PUC is expected make a decision in June 2016.

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