Maui has hired an Oklahoma-based firm to study utility options for the community to give it a better sense of whether the proposed $4.3 billion sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries to NextEra Energy is in the county’s best interest.

Guernsey, an engineering, architectural and consulting company, was awarded a $70,000 contract to do the study by mid-October.

“We have the natural resources to wean ourselves off of oil here in Maui County, but in order to do that we need a utility that will be able to evolve with the changing energy industry,” Mayor Alan Arakawa said in a release Tuesday.

Maui Wind Energy

A wind farm is seen on a mountain ridge on Maui, which recently hired a firm to study utility options for the community.

Nathan Eagle/Honolulu Civil Beat

“Hopefully this study will be able tell us what is the best option for this type of utility evolution,” he said. “This is important information that we can use to decide what’s best for the future of Maui County.”

HEI is the parent of Maui Electric Co., which serves Maui, Lanai and Molokai; Hawaiian Electric Co., which powers Oahu; and Hawaiian Electric and Light Co., which serves the Big Island.

Arakawa formed a group this summer to look at what it would mean for Maui to break away from HEI, which is something the Big Island is exploring too.

Guernsey, which was chosen by the mayor’s Office of Economic Development, is expected to come up with an “options analysis of the alternative forms of ownership and the alternative utility business models for Maui County’s electric utility company,” according to the bid requirements.

The firm had an office on Oahu from 1999 to 2007 and has worked with Hawaiian Electric, the U.S. Army and other utilities on the mainland in the past, looking at options for acquisition, consolidation, privatization and valuation.

The county hopes the study will be helpful in formulating the county’s position in the NextEra merger docket.

The general public will have an opportunity to tell members of the PUC and the Division of Consumer Advocacy what it thinks about the proposed sale during seven “listening sessions” on six islands starting Friday on Maui and ending Oct. 27 on Oahu.

The listening sessions will serve as a precursor to formal evidentiary hearings that begin Nov. 30 at Blaisdell Arena. That’s when NextEra, HEI, the Consumer Advocate and 28 other intervenors will formally present their case before the PUC.

Read more about the merger here.

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