Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Battle Fatigue: Time to Get To Work/Put Up or Shut Up

For a long time, Governor Ige and State Representative Chris Lee have intimated that there are other parties interested in purchasing the HECO Companies.  The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission own order (page 263) stated, "The HECO Companies' attributes that were attractive to NextEra are still available to other potential suitors."

This afternoon the Board of Directors of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) made it clear in a press release that it is not interested in sizing up potential suitors:
The business and affairs of HEI are managed under the direction of its boards of directors.  In accordance with its fiduciary duties, the boards have determined that it is in the best interests of the company and all of the stakeholders that it serves – including shareholders, customers, employees and communities – to remain independent and to work toward realizing the clean energy future and vibrant local economy we all want for Hawaii.  In this regard, and despite statements reported in the media about other unnamed parties rumored to be interested in acquiring HEI, the company is not currently in discussions with any other party regarding a business combination and does not intend to initiate any such discussions.
Simply put, politicians and regulators should not be in the matchmaking business to effect a forced marriage on a private business.  If certain politicians and the regulator are not happy with the performance of the HECO Companies and its control and operations of Hawaii's electricity franchises then Legislators should use their legislative powers to revoke the franchises and put them up for auction rather than to keep pressing suitors on an unwilling seller.

Rather than seek the limelight and press coverage to just offer intimations, if these politicians think there are better ownership/business model options then they should be held accountable to outline the framework and the follow-up actions to use the State's revocation and condemnation powers to start an adversarial proceeding for a takeover of the electricity system.  And, did I say . . . be held accountable for their actions and subsequent decisions.

The HECO-NextEra merger Order states, "As part of their statutory mandate, the HECO Companies must continue to operate to provide safe, reliable, reasonably priced electric service, while meeting the challenges of the current market in general and the various State renewable energy goals in particular."  The Order also states, "In the commission's view, the time has come for the HECO Companies to finalize and put into action their plans for achieving the State's clean energy transformation."  However, the sentence before that says, "Although there has been progress on each of these issues [dockets on power system improvement plan, distributed energy resources, demand response programs, community solar], the commission observes that progress by the HECO Companies has been very slow."

In general, decision and orders coming from the Commission itself has been very slow.  Perhaps certain politicians should be more concerned about and investigate the dysfunction within the Commission and the questionable occupation of a commissioner's seat rather than matchmaking for the HECO Companies.

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