Oral Argument Before the Hawaii Supreme Court–SCOT-21-0000041
No. SCOT-21-0000041, Monday, December 6, 2021, 2 p.m.
In the Matter of the Application of MAUI ELECTRIC COMPANY, LIMITED, For Approval of Power Purchase Agreement for Renewable Dispatchable Generation with Paeahu Solar LLC.
The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits.
The oral argument was held remotely and livestreamed for public viewing via the Judiciary’s YouTube channel at YouTube.com/hawaiicourts.
Attorneys for Appellant Pono Power Coalition:
Lance D. Collins of the Law Office of Lance D Collins; Bianca K. Isaki of the Law Office of Bianca Isaki
Attorneys for Appellee Paeahu Solar LLC:
Douglas A. Codiga and Mark F. Ito of Schlack Ito
Attorneys for Appellee Maui Electric Company, Limited:
Joseph A. Stewart, Bruce Nakamura, and Aaron R. Mun of Kobayashi Sugita & Goda, LLP
Attorneys for Appellee Public Utilities Commission:
Caroline C. Ishida, Mark J. Kaetsu, and Ashley K. L. Agcaoili
NOTE: Amended Notice of Setting for Oral Argument filed 11/01/21 due to rescheduling from Tuesday, 12/07/21 at 2:00 p.m. to Monday, 12/06/21 at 2:00 p.m.
COURT: Recktenwald, C.J., Nakayama, McKenna, Wilson, and Eddins, JJ.
This direct appeal concerns the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) approval of a power purchase agreement (PPA) between Maui Electric Company, Limited (MECO) and Paeahu Solar LLC (Paeahu). Under the PPA, MECO would purchase renewable energy from Paeahu’s solar-plus-battery plant located within Ulupalakua Ranch on Maui.
The PPA resulted from a competitive bidding process that three utility companies – MECO, Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc. – simultaneously ran. In early 2018, they issued requests for proposals (RFP). After conducting multi-step evaluations, the utility companies selected eight projects (the Finalists), including Paeahu’s. MECO and Paeahu negotiated the PPA and sought the PUC’s approval.
Appellant Pono Power Coalition (Pono Power), a Maui community group, asks this court to vacate the PPA approval for the following reasons. First, it argues that Paeahu engaged in anticompetitive, collusive conduct during PPA negotiations that harmed ratepayers and gave unfair advantages to Paeahu. This argument stems from the Finalists’ use of the same law firm for PPA negotiation purposes. Second, Pono Power contends the PUC failed to meet its public trust obligations because it did not make factual findings regarding how public trust resources affected by Paeahu’s project would be protected. It challenges the PUC’s conclusion that other agencies having jurisdiction over various permits for the project would review the relevant studies regarding the project’s impact. Third, Pono Power asserts the PUC wrongly concluded that Paeahu satisfied the community outreach requirements under the RFP and PPA.