Henry Curtis, who writes a prolific blog on local energy issues, referred today to HECO’s “secret, invitation-only meetings with selected community leaders to discuss the merger.” It is true, the invite said no guests allowed, and bring ID.
I went to the meeting, and it didn’t feel very selective. It felt like a desperate attempt to halt a public relations landslide. A team of 14 HECO employees outnumbered some 8 members of Windward community organizations. They asked to save the merger for last.
I think they were banking on us seeing real, local residents working at the company to feel like they were “just like us.” I did feel that way, but I also felt like they were all required by their employer to be there and to toe the company line.
I learned something: The net metering where individual producers with PV panels and HECO sell / buy at an even price was terminated last week. People with existing contracts are grandfathered in to the old deal. All contracts from now on will sell their energy at 15 cents and buy it at the retail rate, now 25 cents. The rationale behind this is that initial investors were rewarded with a favorable deal to get the industry started, but now 30% of single family homes have PV so that phase is over.
Generally, HECO described technical innovations they are working on. One industry insider pointed out that these had been used elsewhere for 40 years, and equated HECO with a dinosaur. Regardless, the message was that HECO is committed to 100% renewables by 2045, as required by law, and that they have plans to get there with or without Nextera. They said they would get there faster with Nextera because of favorable bulk pricing available to Nextera and experience using advanced technology. They said that just like HECO is bound by State laws and regulated by the PUC, so would Nextera be. So we don’t have to worry.
I explained that I am worried, because Nextera has a track record of buying political influence so that laws and PUCs cater to their business interests rather than what is best for the State. I said that HECO may be a dinosaur, but local people manage it and it is not actually malevolent. Among all the 14 HECO employees there, not one disagreed or defended Nextera in any way. They just said thanks for the nice comment about HECO and let it go at that.