NextEra Energy President Eric Gleason told a Public Utilities Commission panel vetting his company's proposed merger with Hawaiian Electric Co. that NextEra was concerned with HECO's ability to be successful as a standalone company.
"They just had an awful lot on their plate for a small utility to deal with," Gleason said Wednesday.
NextEra wants to buy Hawaiian Electric Industries for $4.3 billion. Gleason said it will cost $30 billion to transition the five islands that HEI serves to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, a requirement under law, and rate payers will foot the bill.
"If someone actually does the math of what does it take to get from today to 30 years from now, and adds up all the capital, it's pretty hard to come up with numbers that aren't in the tens of billions of dollars," he said.
Gleason testified that NextEra won't sell HEI for 10 years, but can't commit to owning it for 30.
"I'm not in a position here to say that a longer period of time would be acceptable," he said.
Several times during his testimony, Gleason deflected questions and directed the panel to other testifiers.
That irked opponents of the deal.
"With their punting so much down the line it adds to the complexity of future speakers," said Life of the Land's Henry Curtis.
But NextEra spokesman Robert Gould said deferring questions to other experts ensured they'd be answered fully.
"It is a legal proceeding," Gould said. "There are a number of witnesses that are part of the proceeding that have expertise in certain areas."
Also Wednesday, Gleason repeated NextEra's desire to use liquefied natural gas as a bridge fuel -- an energy source Gov. David Ige opposes.
Gleason said HEI would be managed locally, but decisions would be made by NextEra's board of directors on the mainland.