Monday, November 30, 2015

Florida Audubon didn't get the memo: NextEra takeover of HEI would serve only to enshrine status quo monopoly ... by gimleteye

Florida Audubon's OPED, published recently in a Hawaii, by Eric Draper was meant to put Hawaii at ease in the pending merger of Hawaii's electric utility with FPL. Draper, contrary to fact, claimed that FPL was a great corporate citizen. "One utility that always listens to Everglades advocates -- in fact, they seek our guidance -- is NextEra and its subsidiary, Florida Power & Light," dismissing with a few key strokes the decades of FPL's fighting environmentalists at every turn at its Turkey Point nuclear facility. Judging from the outcome, FPL never listens to Everglades advocates or does so only after investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to "tenderize" its opposition. There is another OPED in the Hawaii newspaper today, putting FPL in a different context:

NextEra takeover of HEI would serve only to enshrine status quo monopoly
By Rep. Chris Lee
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 29, 2015

Enough of my neighbors seem to think NextEra’s big claims for savings sound too good to be true that they keep asking: What is it that NextEra isn’t telling us?

Recent NextEra disclosures finally reveal what hasn’t been said: Billions of dollars in costs will likely be added to our electric bills.

NextEra has been running a public relations campaign, making big promises reminiscent of the most sophisticated political campaigns. However, the ads can be deceiving because while they emphasize spending billions on new grid infrastructure, they don’t disclose that local residents will be the ones forced to pay the bill.

Several people even testified in support of NextEra with misleading information, saying the Florida company “will pay billions to upgrade our electric grid so Hawaii residents won’t have to.”

Unfortunately, that’s just not true.

The truth is Hawaii residents would be the ones paying additional billions on our electric bills because utilities are generally allowed to pass costs on to local residents and take a cut in profit for themselves.

So the more NextEra spends, the more it profits, and the more residents are forced to pay.

NextEra executives recently disclosed their projections for $30 billion in spending on grid infrastructure. This means nearly $7,000 that NextEra would take from each Hawaii family in profit alone, if it is allowed to add those costs to our electric bills in coming years.

The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) already has raised serious concerns that even Hawaiian Electric Co.’s and NextEra’s short-term plans for spending “favor the financial interests of the companies while providing less prominent and less certain benefits for customers.”

To maximize profits, the utility plans “included resources with higher costs and uncertain feasibility at the expense of other lower-cost renewable sources that could be developed sooner and with lower development risk.”

This is why it is so important that NextEra shares its plans for the future — so we know how much it will be adding to our electric bills.

Unfortunately, it won’t disclose those plans until a year after the merger is approved.

NextEra even argued that its CEO couldn’t be forced to answer questions before the PUC because he “is not a Hawaii resident.”

Everyone knows HECO’s 20th-century business model no longer works in a 21st-century future, in which everyone can generate and share their own power.

In fact, HECO’s electricity sales already have been declining for more than a decade, despite Hawaii’s growing population.

With its business shrinking, the only way the utility has been able to keep shareholders happy — actually increasing profits 80 percent in the last decade — is by driving our electric bills higher through regulatory policies that force residents to pay more to subsidize the utility and by boosting infrastructure spending it keeps a cut of.

NextEra has adopted HECO’s strategy.

However, despite the utilities’ advertising campaign promising savings, the PUC already has found that the utilities’ “prominent claim that (their short-term plans) would result in 20 percent residential bill reductions is a … misleading characterization of the supporting analyses. Closer examination indicates … costs and rates would increase … ”

I said from Day One that NextEra should be given a chance to share its plans and be heard. As elected leaders, we have an obligation to weigh all options.

However, we also have an obligation to protect the public interest, and it will absolutely hurt local families to cede control of our cost of living to a utility with a financial incentive to drive rates higher.

It is clear now that NextEra’s plans do little more than enshrine the status quo utility monopoly for another generation with significant cost increases on the horizon, but little guarantee for savings.

We’ve heard loud and clear that local residents don’t want a bigger HECO, they want change.

The people of Hawaii can take ownership of our utilities, change policies currently forcing residents to subsidize them, and save our families billions.

State Rep. Chris Lee (D-Kailua, Lanikai, Waimanalo) chairs the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.


Geniusofdespair said...

What happened to the other ERIC (Eikenberg)? Is he disavowing what Draper wrote? Was he and the Everglades Foundation sucked into the Audubon web of serial greenwashing?

Anonymous said...

Monopolists flock together.

Cindy Lerner said...

Those of us who have lived the adverse impact of FPL should craft a letter to the people of Hawaii, sharing the truth of FPL and pay for a full page ad of that letter with all of us signing onto it. One of our local organizations should offer to collect funds for the ad and I am sure we would all chip in! Laura? Jonathan? Who's up for helping to inform and warn our friends in Hawaii.