Community feedback sought on proposed merger between HEI and NextEra

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Associate Professor Shalanda Baker, (808) 956-9435
Director, Energy Justice Program, William S. Richardson School of Law
Sean Aronson, (808) 647-4044
EJWG Member, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Sep 10, 2015

Events flyer
Events flyer

The newly formed Energy Justice Working Group at the UH Law School will begin reaching out during September for community feedback on the proposed merger between Hawaiian Electric Industries and Florida-based NextEra, one of the nation's largest energy providers.

In a series of public meetings scheduled on the North Shore for September 19, 26 and 27, the group will provide a general overview of the proposed merger, and then form small listening groups so residents can share and discuss their thoughts, opinions and ideas.

The North Shore was chosen as a template for the island as a whole, and because of interest expressed by that community for a public discussion of plans, options and alternatives.

Associate Professor Shalanda Baker, Director of the new Energy Justice Program at the William S. Richardson School of Law, sees the community meetings as an opportunity to begin a statewide conversation about energy justice.  “Energy justice is universal access to affordable, renewable energy,” Baker said.  “Energy justice is also the implementation of clean energy solutions rooted in democratic, stakeholder-driven processes that equitably allocate the costs and benefits of energy development.”

As part of the discussions, the sessions will offer information on a variety of alternate approaches to energy delivery that are currently under consideration by stakeholder groups. These include municipal power, energy cooperatives and off-grid energy generation.

The information gathered will provide the basis for a comprehensive policy report that will discuss the range of community responses, reactions and questions about the proposed merger as well as energy delivery within the state.  The final report will include policy recommendations for regulators weighing the public benefit aspects of the merger.  

The meetings are free and open to the public. The schedule:

  • Saturday, September 19, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.:  Haleiwa, Patagonia, North Shore Marketplace, 66-250 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa.
  • Saturday, September 26, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.:  Kahuku High School, 56-490 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku.
  • Sunday, September 27, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.:  Sunset Beach Elementary School, 59 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa.

The Energy Justice Working Group -- comprised of Baker and five law students, Sean Aronson, Claire Colegrove, Arielle Kramer, James Strange and Timothy Vandeveer -- is part of the new Energy Justice Program launching this year within the Environmental Law Program (ELP) at the William S. Richardson School of Law.

Its mission is to create theories and systems of energy justice for local, regional and global application, and to prepare leaders to implement them through post-graduate fellowships and hands-on courses focused on energy resources, sustainable energy and energy policy design. The program was developed over the past year by Associate Professor Baker, who is the ELP faculty advisor, working in conjunction with ELP program director David M. Forman.

“With a goal of meeting 100% of its energy needs with renewable energy sources by the year 2045, the state is at an energy crossroads,” said Baker.  “Through the merger listening sessions we have planned, the EJWG seeks to stimulate dialogue around a variety of themes and issues.  The sessions mark the beginning of a deeper conversation concerning the energy transition, energy justice and energy democracy in Hawai‘i.”


In December of 2014, Florida-based NextEra Energy (NextEra), one of the largest energy providers in the nation, and Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI), Hawai‘i’s century-old utility, entered into a merger agreement concerning the purchase of the Hawaiian electric companies -- Hawaiian Electric Company Inc., Maui Electric Company Limited, and Hawai‘i Electric Light Company Inc. -- by NextEra.  NextEra and HEI now seek approval from regulators regarding the proposed merger.  The state’s utility regulators must determine whether the proposed merger is in the public interest and they are expected to reach a decision by June 2016.

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