By Teena Rasmussen, Maui County Economic DevelopmentCoordinator
Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Transmission LLC, and Alan Oshima, president and CEO of HECO, will help launch the three-day conference set for March 25-27.
In December, the companies announced that NextEra would buy HEI in a 4.3 billion dollar acquisition deal. The proposed absorption of HEI into NextEra still needs approval of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.
Connie Lau, president and chief executive officer of Hawaiian Electric Industries, has described the merger as a “transformational opportunity” for Hawaii’s electric utilities to accelerate the shift away from traditional diesel-powered turbines to clean energy. Lau is also speaking at the conference on its second day.
NextEra is North America’s largest generator of wind and solar power. Wind and solar energy are both abundant but to a great extent not yet harnessed in Hawaii.
Gleason has said that NextEra has invested billions in clean energy development and has the expertise to bring that transformation to Hawaii. The company is roughly 14 times larger than Hawaiian Electric in terms of its earnings and total assets. This gives NextEra the capability to bring currently less-expensive liquefied natural gas to Hawaii-as an alternative to diesel fuel-while incorporating distributed solar and wind power alternatives.
The energy merger players and attendees at the conference will explore the evolving role of the electric utility through the lens of the customer. In a variety of sessions, national experts will discuss emerging trends in the electric utility industry and public policy that will shape customer choices including customer protection and engagement, renewable energy integration, microgrids, and demand response programs.
In its debut last year, the Maui Energy Conference drew industry, government and private leaders not just from Hawaii, but also places such as Colorado, California and even Japan. “Interests in the energy field goes beyond our shores,” said Jeanne Skog, President & CEO from Maui Economic Development Board. “This event features a variety of speakers actively engaged in electric utilities, renewable energy initiatives and business development.” With the support of a host of corporate partners, MEDB and the County of Maui are presenting the event.
The exhibition component of the conference gives networking opportunities to participants who want to generate business, or connect and collaborate to address common issues and concerns.
Individuals with questions or interests in energy could also find the three-day professional conference compelling. Day two of the conference, for example, offers sessions with panelists speaking about “Consumer Protection: Who’s Looking Out for the Customer?” and “How can the Customer Become an Active Participant in the Energy Landscape?”
All together, the conference program highlights include eight breakout sessions with topics including: “The Customer of the 21st Century”; “Are We Seeing What They’re Seeing: Customer Perceptions on Energy”; “Advancing Toward Grid Modernization: Meeting Customer Needs”; “The Growth of Distribution Generation – Good or Bad for the Customer?”
The conference’s third day will move outdoors with two optional Maui Sustainability Mobile Workshops-a tour of Kaheawa Wind Farm and a tour of the Smart Grid Demonstration Project, JumpSMARTMaui, hosted by Hitachi Ltd.
For information on how to register and other details, visit: mauienergyconference.com.