Feds approve HEI-NextEra merger; PUC, HEI shareholders up next

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission signed off on the pending $4.3 billion sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries to Florida-based NextEra Energy, sending the fight to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission signed off on the pending $4.3 billion sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries to Florida-based NextEra Energy, sending the fight to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Jim Robo, chairman and chief executive officer of NextEra Energy, said the federal commission’s approval represents a significant step toward the completion of the merger.

“Through our partnership, we will apply our combined expertise and resources to deliver significant savings and value to Hawaiian Electric customers,” he said in a statement. “We will continue to work closely with our partners at Hawaiian Electric in pursuing the remaining necessary approvals to complete the merger and begin to deliver the more affordable clean energy future we all want for Hawaii.”

The proposed acquisition still needs approval from the PUC, HEI shareholders and additional regulatory approvals and other customary conditions.

Marco Mangelsdorf, spokesman for Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative, a group of Big Island community and business leaders exploring the idea of public ownership, said he was not surprised by Monday’s announcement.

“It was pretty much to be expected that FERQ would give their approval for this kind of transaction, and really all eyes are on the PUC,” he said.

Mangelsdorf added that Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative — one of 27 entities granted intervenor status by the PUC — appreciates having a seat at the table and will be actively participating in the process.

The federal approval comes in the midst of a legislative push to ensure community concerns are addressed and that the PUC exercises due diligence in making sure the acquisition is in the best interest of the public. Lawmakers in the state House of Representatives have introduced a series of resolutions related to the pending sale.

One of those measures, House Resolution 105, introduced by Rep. Nicole Lowen, D-Kailua-Kona, supports further discussion on efforts to facilitate local ownership and control of electric utilities and local generation of electricity.

Unlike bills, resolutions mandate nothing. Still, Mangelsdorf said he appreciates support for continuing the discussion.

Connie Lau, president of HEI, said in a statement that her company has been pleased with the progress thus far.

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“Hawaiian Electric is gaining a partner that is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun, with a commitment to supporting rooftop solar in Hawaii and a proven track record of lowering electric bills,” she said in a statement. “This approval provides further momentum toward ultimately delivering that substantial value to our customers and communities.”

Email Chris D’Angelo at cdangelo@hawaiitribune-herald.com.