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September 27, 2015

Don’t leave Hawaii in the dark

Categories: Energy | Featured

Publishes in the Sept. 27, 2015 edition of the Hawaii Tribune-Herald

By. Kyle Datta

We’re all facing a crucial decision over who will take the reins of our state’s energy future. We’ve committed to a future with 100 percent renewable energy and better reliability from the grid. We also want affordable electricity for our families and businesses. We need to work together to make sure we achieve a bright future for all.

NextEra promises it can deliver our aspirations, but decades of experience with developers in Hawaii has taught us there is a big difference between firm commitments and empty promises. Of the 54 new “commitments” NextEra has made in recent weeks, 44 of them are either legal obligations they already had, actions Hawaiian Electric planned before the merger, or conditions that nearly every Public Utility Commission in the United States routinely imposes on mergers, and should have been included in their original application.

NextEra’s promise of nearly $1 billion in customer savings is overstated and does not add up. Local ratepayers may only receive $60 million in total benefits spread out over several years while Hawaiian Electric shareholders will get $600 million as soon as the merger is approved.

According to NextEra, the merger will save the average ratepayer about $6 per month, which already sounds low. However,if we calculate the savings based on the commitments in their proposal, the merger will actually only save ratepayers 70 cents per month. Hawaii’s ratepayers deserve more guaranteed savings, not more promises.

One thing is clear: the scales of this deal are vastly tipped in favor of Hawaiian Electric shareholders and executives, instead of benefiting ratepayers. We think the company can do better for Hawaii’s ratepayers.

Finally, our state has committed by law to achieve a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard for electricity generation by 2045.

Whoever takes control over Hawaiian Electric will need to embrace change and innovation to get us there. We should be given commitments to accelerate renewable energy sooner.

Hawaii should be treated no differently than any other state. As ratepayers, we deserve our fair share of the merger benefits, fair competition, unconditional commitments for accelerating renewables, lower rates, and improved reliability.

We want transparency from the company that may hold the key to our energy future so we know where the deal stands. Future promises aren’t sufficient. We can’t be left in the dark.

There is a lot at stake in the NextEra-Hawaiian Electric merger. The outcome of this merger is a critical turning point for our energy future. We need to get it right.

Kyle Datta is general partner of Ulupono Initiative, an intervenor in the NextEra/Hawaiian Electric merger. The Hawaii-focused impact investment firm created www.fairenergyforhawaii.com to make information about the merger easily accessible and provide a platform for residents to voice their opinions.