Maui News

Pūlama Lāna‘i in Talks With Hawaiian Electric on Possible Purchase of Lāna‘i Utility

January 7, 2020, 9:44 AM HST
* Updated January 7, 9:45 AM
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Hawaiian Electric is in exploratory discussions with Pūlama Lānaʻi about the possible sale of the Lānaʻi utility.

Hawaiian Electric was approached by Pūlama Lānaʻi about acquiring the assets of the utility after Hawaiian Electric issued a request for proposals for renewable energy projects on Lānaʻi. Company executives say the exploratory talks are in the preliminary stages.

Representatives of the privately held company said it was already working to develop a plan that would increase the use of renewable energy and lower electricity bills for the island’s 3,000 residents. It approached the utility as part of its long-term sustainability plans for the island, which is almost entirely owned by entrepreneur Larry Ellison and managed by Pūlama Lānaʻi.

Because of the ongoing discussions, Hawaiian Electric is working with the Public Utilities Commission and other stakeholders on possible revisions to the renewable energy RFP.

Any revisions will be posted online. Pūlama Lānaʻi is the island’s largest utility customer and operates the Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi at Mānele and the Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi at Kōʻele, a Sensei Retreat.

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“We’re still seeking the best solution for customers and the most effective way to get Lānaʻi and the other islands off fossil fuels,” said Sharon Suzuki, president of Hawaiian Electric’s Maui County and Hawaiʻi Island utilities. “These are decisions that have to be made in consultation with the community and we are working with Pūlama Lānaʻi to make sure that everyone understands the options.”

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Any transaction would require the approval of the PUC and would include public discussions with Lānaʻi businesses and residents to ensure that the transaction is in the public interest.

One option being discussed would have Pūlama Lānaʻi contract with Hawaiian Electric to operate and maintain the island’s generators and distribution system. The utility has 12 employees working on the island.

Maui Electric purchased the assets of the Lānaʻi City power plant in 1988.

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“We want to work with Pūlama Lānaʻi and the community to create a path that can enable the island to reach its sustainability goals faster while ensuring equity and fairness for all of its residents,” Suzuki said.

Representatives with Pūlama Lānaʻi issued a statement on Monday, acknowledging the potential purchase of the utility from Hawaiian Electric as a “next phase” in it’s “vision of sustainability” for the island.   Below is the text of the statement:

“Since its inception, Pūlama Lānaʻi’s vision has been to create a sustainable future on Lānaʻi. We’ve worked to reduce our impact on the environment over the past several years with improvements to our water system, recycling programs, native and endangered species protection and resource conservation.

“Our journey towards 100% sustainability now leads us to investigate the potential benefits of owning the grid. We are by far its largest customer and have a vested interest in building a modernized grid that will speed Lanaʻi’s progress towards being energy independent. We will have a phased plan that will lead to more renewable energy and lower electricity bills for our residents which currently ranks among the highest in the state. The initial transition phase will include creating micro-grids with the Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi at Mānele and the Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi at Kōʻele, a Sensei Retreat. Businesses around the world are recognizing that they have a responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint and are using micro grids to become models for sustainability. We believe the same can be done on Lānaʻi.

“We will be meeting with the Lānaʻi community, Hawaiian Electric, the PUC and other groups as we move forward with discussions, and we are committed to working collaboratively with Hawaiian Electric on executing the transition as seamlessly as possible, should we receive approval to move forward.”

Lānaʻi. Photo courtesy: Office of Council Services.

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