Hawaii Gov. David Ige and two key state agencies are not convinced that it would be in the public’s best interest for Hawaiian Electric Industries to sell itself to Florida-based NextEra Energy.

The Office of Planning and Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism came out in opposition to the planned $4.3 billion deal in their voluminous comments Monday to the Public Utilities Commission.

Ige called a press conference Tuesday to address the state’s position.

Governor David Ige gives press conference regarding Nextera merger.  21 july 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Gov. David Ige answers questions during a press conference Tuesday regarding the state’s opposition to the planned NextEra Energy purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“Although I welcome capital investment in Hawaii with respect to energy, any merger or investment must align with the state’s 100 percent renewable energy goal,” he said.

“We are taking the position that the merger as proposed at this point is unacceptable.”

Ige described NextEra’s responses to questions about the state’s 100 percent goal as “vague and noncommital, to say the least.”

The governor said the state is also concerned about losing local control of a company based some 5,000 miles away.

“We are looking for a partner that shares our hopes and dreams,” Ige said. 

NextEra remains committed to the deal.

“NextEra Energy and the Hawaiian Electric Companies believe that this merger truly is in the best interest of the state of Hawaii, and in particular, Hawaiian Electric’s customers,” NextEra spokesman Rob Gould said in a statement Tuesday.

“That said, we know that the public interest is more than economic benefits,” he said. “To that end, we have made commitments to employees, community causes and for the establishment of a local independent advisory board, and we will listen to and work with all stakeholders to achieve what’s best for the State of Hawaii and Hawaiian Electric’s customers.”

Jim Robo Chairman and CEO, NEXTERA Energy, Inc. and Connie Lau, President and CEO Hawaiian Electric Industries speak at press conference announcing a merger with NEXTERA at suite 800, 1001 Bishop Street. Honolulu, Hawaii.  3 dec 2014. photograph by Cory Lum

Jim Robo, CEO of NextEra Energy, and Connie Lau, CEO of Hawaiian Electric Industries, speak at a press conference announcing the planned $4.3 billion merger, Dec. 3, 2014.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

NextEra and HEI announced the deal in December. The PUC said it could take until next June to decide whether it should be approved.

HEI is the parent company of Hawaiian Electric Co. on Oahu, Maui Electric Co., and Hawaiian Electric Light on Big Island. Kauai, with its locally owned electric cooperative, is the only county not powered by HEI.

Gould said NextEra’s filings with the PUC demonstrate more than $600 million in economic benefits in the first five years after closing.

“We are optimistic that as the regulatory process continues, we will find more common ground and further demonstrate the strong public interest benefits of this merger,” he said.

Ige left open the possibility that the state could come around to supporting the deal based on future responses and actions by NextEra as the regulatory review process continues.

“I’m certain that this isn’t the last page written on this merger,” he said. 

“We need an electric company that sees Hawaii as the center of its work and the opportunity we represent as one of the greatest moments in history for any utility. We have not seen that in this proposal.”

Read the state Office of Planning’s comments to the PUC on the proposed deal here.

Read DBEDT’s comments to the PUC here.

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