HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At a meeting Wednesday, Hawaiian EIectric Industries shareholders voted in favor of a sale of HEI to NextEra Energy. Seventy-five percent of HEI's total outstanding shares were needed for the supermajority vote. HEI got 76 percent.
"We're extremely pleased that our shareholders, many of whom are Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light customers, have shown their strong support for this historic partnership by approving the proposed merger," said Jeff Watanabe, HEI's chairman of the board.
Shareholder Peter Lewis voted yes.
"By this merger it will enhance the financial viability of Hawaiian Electric and in turn help the rate payers on this island," he said.
Gina Hara was one of the shareholders who voted no.
"My main concern is that this vote doesn't have enough disclosure as who NextEra really is," she said.
The proposed merger of the utilities needs approval from the Federal Reserve Board, Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Justice. The biggest hurdle will be gaining approval from the state's Public Utilities Commission.
"It's not going to be a decision which will be rendered in a day or two," PUC chairman Randy Iwase said.
Iwase and his staff are already sifting through reams of paperwork. The commission must decide whether an HEI and NextEra merger is in the public's interest.
"We have to determine whether or not the applicant is fit, willing and able to perform," Iwase said.
In September or October the PUC will conduct statewide public listening sessions. In December the commission plans to hold a contested case hearing.
"We have 31 parties and 16 issues," Iwase said. "We're going to see if we can get a resolution of the hearing process at least within 15 days."
In a statement distributed after the shareholder vote, HEI president Connie Lau said, "We're confident that this merger will help us more quickly achieve the affordable clean energy future we all want for Hawaii."
HEI insists with NextEra it will triple distributed solar, lower energy bills, and move Hawaii toward a clean energy future.
The PUC hopes to render its ruling on the sale next June.