PUC chair nominee speaks

PUC chair nominee speaks

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige's nominee to head the Public Utility Commission said public input will play a bigger role in the agency's review of the buyout of Hawaiian Electric.

Randy Iwase said that even before the utility agreed to be bought out by Florida's NextEra, the commission was already taking the utility to task over high electricity costs.

"In response to filings by Hawaiian Electric, (the PUC) basically said to them 'you gotta clean up your act in this area, in this area and that area because the goal is to reduce costs to the consumer,'" Iwase said.

"The PUC does say we recognize that the high rates in Hawaii affects our economy because it affects disposable income."

The PUC isn't the only agency taking a close look at the deal. State lawmakers are proposing bills to ensure that consumers aren't hurt by the buyout.

"We want to put conditions in place so that when the PUC approves this deal, we know there are benchmarks that will have to be hit for cost reductions and renewable energy goals," said state Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

Along with benchmarks, Lee wants the state do a study on operating HECO as a publicly-owned utility, such as Kauai's electric company and others on the mainland.

He also wants to limit corporate influence by HECO's buyer.

"We know that companies like NextEra and others coming into Hawaii give out tremendous political contributions to gain political influence in other states and we want to prevent that from happening here," Lee said.

Some of these proposals will be aired out tomorrow during a House-Senate briefing on NextEra's buyout -- a topic that will likely dominate discussion during this year's legislative session.

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