Ulupono Initiative

Fair Energy for Hawaii

Ulupono joined the formal regulatory process as one of 28 intervenors, taking the stance that the merger needed to be in the best interest of the public in order to be approved by the PUC. 

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Background

Hawaii has the highest electricity rates in the country, about three times higher than the national average. At the same time, the state has one of the most aggressive clean energy goals in the U.S. – to reach 100 percent clean energy for electricity generation by 2045. These factors mean the state’s energy issues are highly visible and volatile, especially for the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which regulates utility plans and rates.

Ulupono joined the formal regulatory process as one of 28 intervenors, taking the stance that the merger needed to be in the best interest of the public in order to be approved by the PUC. In addition, Ulupono recognized the issue’s complexities would be confusing to the general public, leaving it open to misinformation and opportunities for misinterpretations. Ulupono set out to increase the public’s awareness of the merger terms and encourage stakeholder participation in the public process by conducting an awareness campaign called “Fair Energy for Hawaii.” The campaign included external media relations, including advertisements, op-eds and a website, as well as stakeholder engagement.

On July 15, 2016, 19 months after the initial announcement, the PUC denied the merger in a 2-0 decision, with one commissioner abstaining from the vote. The PUC’s decision directly quoted the key conditions Ulupono developed and shared publically throughout the campaign. In its ruling, the PUC asserted that NextEra and HECO had not shown that the merger would be in the best interest of the public. It cited, among other issues, the need for guaranteed rate credits, provisions for fair competition and a level playing field, and a lack of commitment to the state’s aggressive clean and renewable energy goals – conditions put forward by Ulupono in its campaign materials and official testimony. 

Why We Invested

When Florida energy company NextEra Energy proposed in December 2014 to purchase Hawaii’s largest electric utility, Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO), for $4.3 billion – one of the biggest business deals in state history – it drew a lot of attention. Ulupono Initiative realized the outcome of this merger would be a critical turning point for the state’s energy future.

Impact

At a Glance