Gov. David Ige has nominated Jennifer Potter to replace Lorraine Akiba on the three-member Public Utilities Commission, which oversees everything from electric and shipping rate cases to steering the state toward its goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

Potter is an assistant specialist with the University of Hawaii’s Hawaii Natural Energy Institute. She previously worked as a senior scientific engineering associate for the Electricity Market and Policy group at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where she did work for the California Public Utilities Commission.

Her six-year term, subject to Senate confirmation, begins July 1.

Gov David Ige speaks about the people that live near the Waianae Boat Harbor.
Gov. David Ige said his PUC nominee will help the state achieve its renewable energy goals. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Potter said in a statement Monday that she supports the state’s clean energy and resiliency goals.

“Jennifer has a solid background and extensive experience that will enable her to serve well on the Public Utilities Commission,” Ige said in a release. “I look forward to working with her to achieve a 100 percent clean energy future.”

The governor thanked Akiba for her “distinguished public service, expertise and leadership.”

“She has played a key role in representing Hawaii in the state’s renewable energy transformation,” Ige said.

Jennifer Potter Courtesy: Governor's Office

PUC Chair Randy Iwase welcomed the nomination of Potter.

“It’s not easy to find people who have that kind of background in this field because it is so complex and so evolving,” he told Civil Beat. “We were lucky that we again have another nominee who is well qualified.”

Iwase said Potter will have to learn what it means to be a regulator, balancing fairness to utility companies with fairness to the ratepayers while implementing state policies.

“It’s going to be a tough job to deal with the many issues and the workload that we are now confronted with at the Public Utilities Commission,” he said, noting several upcoming rate cases, implementation of the power supply improvement plan and performance-based ratemaking to incentivize utilities to promote renewables.

The commission made headlines in 2015 and 2016 as it considered — and ultimately rejected — the proposed $4.3 billion sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries to Florida-based NextEra Energy. Akiba and Iwase voted against the deal. Tom Gorak abstained because he was heavily involved with the proceedings as PUC chief legal counsel prior to becoming a commissioner. He fully supported the decision.

It’s been busy but quieter since then, with the exception of the Senate rejecting Gorak’s appointment to the PUC last year and an audit in February that criticized the agency for not keeping its eye on “big-picture matters.” Ige subsequently appointed James Griffin, who was confirmed by the Senate in August.

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