Transformers

10 people changing the way Hawaii Electric does business

(page 3 of 3)

Regulatory Dance

In large measure, the future of the utility is in the hands of the Public Utilities Commission. Its shape will be decided through an unprecedented welter of dockets before the commission. The most important – the feed-in tariff and decoupling – which the commission has already agreed to in principle, represent revolutionary changes in the way the company does business. The feed-in tariff will encourage the development of ever more renewable power by establishing in advance the price the utility will pay independent producers. Decoupling removes the perverse incentive to sell more, not less power. It does this by decoupling the company’s income from sales; instead, the company will be rewarded for encouraging conservation and adopting more renewable-energy sources.

Of course, that’s the theory. But figuring out the details of these regulatory changes is the primary responsibility of a couple of members of the Clean Energy Team. In fact, the regulatory framework is so important that almost every member of the team has participated in planning and negotiating the PUC’s final ruling.

Darcy Endo-Omoto
Age: 46
Title: Vice President, Government and Community Affairs

Clean-Energy Responsibilities: Work with the Public Utilities Commission and Hawaii’s consumer advocate to develop a sound, clean-energy regulatory structure.
 

As a regulated utility, none of HECO’s ambitious plans can happen without the approval of the PUC. That’s the bailiwick of Endo-Omoto. “When you put the whole puzzle together, I have the regulatory part,” she says. “I’m also responsible for government relations, which is the liaison between us and the Legislature, the (state) administration, the City Council and the federal side. Also under my area: We do all community relations – neighborhood boards, etc.”

“I think we have to take these aggressive steps, not only because of what state law requires of us in terms of our renewable portfolio standards, but also because of what I can see happening on a national level with respect to climate change and global warming.”

Tayne Sekimura
Age: 48
Title: Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Clean-Energy Responsibilities: Ensure that clean-energy plans, especially decoupling and feed-in tariffs, leave the company on a sound financial footing.

 

For regulated industries like HECO, it’s sometimes easy to forget they’re publicly traded companies that still have to make a profit for their investors. As CFO, Sekimura’s role on the team is largely to ensure that, in the rush to meet the company’s clean-energy goals, they don’t lose sight of those basic corporate responsibilities. “I’ve still got to be able to recover costs,” she says. “I can’t give away the candy store.”

The clean-energy agreement inevitably will mean new structures, new financial models for the company. But, as Sekimura notes, they still have to make economic sense. “It’s my job, as financial steward of this company, to make sure, when we go down these paths, that it’s not devastating from a financial standpoint,” she says. It’s a perspective that colors how she negotiates issues like decoupling and feed-in tariffs. “These are not just financial instruments for the sake of increasing profits,” she says. “They’re really the underpinnings of a financially healthy utility that’s able to do these new things and, at the same time, be a supplier of reliable electric power.”
 

Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Aug 30, 2010 04:17 am
 Posted by  docberry

An excellent story, but you need more details on present controversies at the PUC on feed-in tariffs and HECO trying to limit
to 15% of total power from private power producers on Oahu. A follow-up piece on the clean energy sources in dispute should interview Mark Duda, Henry Curtis, and EBDT's energy office which analyzed HECO's claim of a 15% limit.
You also need to write the history of the palm oil debacle into which HECO has drawn its consumers..

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