Sunday | February 19, 2017
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Support the HE-NextEra Energy merger

There is a great deal of debate surrounding the proposed merger of NextEra Energy and the Hawaiian Electric Cos. What we must not lose sight of in all the noise is the fact Hawaii pays the highest electricity rates in the country, and we need to find real ways to bring those costs down to the benefit of residents, businesses and the state.

I am chairman and CEO of KTA Super Stores on Hawaii Island. To be fully transparent, I also serve on the board of directors of Hawaiian Electric Industries, but I am writing today as a local businessman and on behalf of KTA only.

KTA Super Stores and I have deep roots in Hawaii. My grandparents opened the first KTA store in 1916 in Hilo, and the company has grown into a business serving local communities. I am proud to be part of the Hawaii business landscape and to continue my grandparents’ legacy.

Like all businesses in Hawaii, KTA’s utility costs account for a significant percentage of our expenses every month. We, as well as residents across the state, are faced with these high rates because of Hawaii’s continued dependency on imported oil. We all agree this dependency needs to stop and we need to lower electricity rates.

The issue is how we get there. All of what we as individuals, businesses and communities want requires financial resources and a high level of technological sophistication.

Hawaii’s electric grid needs investment and improvement. This is a significant undertaking that requires a level of capital that simply does not exist in Hawaii. NextEra Energy has the financial resources necessary to invest in the grid, power plants, smart meters and Hawaiian Electric’s employees.

Hawaiian Electric stands to benefit from NextEra Energy’s greater purchasing power and borrowing capacity, as well as its technical know-how in the area of renewable energy.

We not only want to lower our electricity costs, we also want our business to be able to operate smoothly and be open to serve the people of Hawaii. The financial resources and expertise NextEra Energy brings also would help improve the reliability of electricity generation.

As a result of partnering with NextEra Energy, Hawaiian Electric would be more efficient, able to accept more renewables onto the grid, improve reliability, reduce our dependency on imported oil and, importantly, lower customer bills.

We need to be realistic. Alone, it will be much greater of a challenge to achieve the clean energy future and lower electricity rates we all want.

The Hawaiian Electric-NextEra Energy merger will help us get there — lower customer bills and on the road to achieving the state’s 100 percent renewable energy goals.

Accordingly, I strongly support the proposed NextEra Energy-Hawaiian Electric merger and encourage my fellow community members to do the same.

Barry Taniguchi is chairman and CEO of KTA Super Stores.

 

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