One of the top clean-energy nonprofits in Hawaii sharply criticized the state Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday over its much anticipated order on decoupling, which separates Hawaiian Electric’s revenues from its sales.

Blue Planet Foundation, headed by Jeff Mikulina, said the commission failed to adopt proposals to tie the utility’s revenues to clean energy performance.

The nonprofit also faulted the PUC’s rationale for not doing so, noting how the regulators’ decision says performance-based utility regulations are “impractical” at this time because the utility lacks a clear strategic plan and because the pending sale of Hawaiian Electric to NextEra Energy could have a major impact on the operation of the Hawaiian Electric companies.

Hawaiian Electric Iwilei station.  11 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Hawaiian Electric’s Iwilei station.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“The tail is wagging the dog here,” Mikulina said in a release. “We shouldn’t use the lack of a utility strategic vision as a reason to protect the status quo. It should be the other way around.”

He pointed at the fact that the decoupling review began long before Florida-based NextEra and Hawaiian Electric Industries announced their $4.3 billion merger deal and before Hawaiian Electric’s power supply improvement plans were released.

Blue Planet also highlighted how the incentives currently in place within the decoupling mechanism haven’t yielded utility performance that customers demand.

“The Commission had a perfect opportunity to shape the structure under which customers should expect the ‘new’ NextEra-owned utility to perform,” Mikulina said.

“Instead, customers will be asked to accept a new utility operating under the old incentive system,” he said, noting the status-quo strategy of fossil fuels, high rates, resistance to grid modernization and limiting customer choice on rooftop solar.

Read the commission’s order, signed by new PUC Chair Randy Iwase and Commissioner Lorraine Akiba and Mike Champley, below.

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