Florida Power & Light's parent company, NextEra Energy, announced Wednesday it has reached a $4.3 billion deal to buy Hawaii's largest utility, Hawaiian Electric Industries.
The transaction includes the assumption of $1.7 billion in HEI debt and excludes HEI's banking subsidiary.
"NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric share a common vision, a more affordable clean energy future for Hawaii," said Connie Lau, Hawaiian Electric's president and chief executive. "While our goals are among the most ambitious in the nation, including increasing renewables to 65 percent, tripling solar and lowering customer bills 20 percent by 2030, we are confident that by leveraging both NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric's expertise and the additional financial resources that NextEra Energy brings, we can meet these targets even sooner."
The merger raises lots of questions about what this means for the Juno Beach-based company. Hawaiian law requires utilities to meet get 70 percent of their supply from clean energy by 2030 and, in Florida, NextEra's largest subsidiary, FPL, has aggressively fought off attempts to establish a similar clean energy goal here.
NextEra has also effectively blocked the emergence of competitive distributive energy generation in Florida with a dominant, take-no-prisoners approach to regulation and politics, while Hawaii has merged as one of the nation's top one of the markets where competitive distributive generation is becoming a reality.
Forbes contributor William Pentland points out that "Hawaii has become a flash point in the battle over the future architecture of the electric grid. The relentless rise of power prices in the state has accelerated customers’ adoption of distributed generation."
That's in stark contrast to Florida where FPL and its parent, NextEra, has kept wholesale competitors out by controlling access to the transmission grid except for incumbent utilities.
"NextEra’s expansion into Hawaii is likely a mixed blessing for the distributed generation business,'' Pentland wrote.
NextEra's press release didn't offer too many answers.
“NextEra Energy shares Hawaiian Electric’s vision of increasing renewable energy, modernizing its grid, reducing Hawaii’s dependence on imported oil, integrating more rooftop solar energy and, importantly, lowering customer bills,” it said.
The transaction is subject to approval by regulators and Hawaiian Electric shareholders.
Here's the joint press release: