Press Release

Hu Honua Seeks over $1 Billion in Damages Against Monopolist Utility Hawaiian Electric

Hawaiian Electric’s Chronic Monopoly Behavior Has Contributed to Wildfire Risks, Nation-High Electricity Rates, an Unreliable Electric Grid, and Prevention of Firm Renewable Energy for Hawaii’s Ratepayers

Updated Complaint Follows Recent Hawaii Supreme Court and Public Utilities Commission Decisions and Cites Monopoly Utility’s Predatory Actions Since Cancelling Power Purchase Agreement


Pepeekeo, HI, November 17, 2023 — Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC (“Hu Honua”) yesterday filed a motion seeking leave to update its antitrust charges in its litigation against Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc., and related companies (collectively, “Hawaiian Electric”)  in federal court.    

Hu Honua’s updated complaint incorporates new facts and developments uncovered since the litigation was first filed in 2016, and argues that Hawaiian Electric has a near-total monopoly over the wholesale firm power generation market on Hawaii Island.  Hawaiian Electric’s monopoly has caused direct harm not only to Hu Honua, but also to Hawaii Island residents who have been plagued by increasingly higher rates and grid reliability issues.

Hawaiian Electric’s termination of Hu Honua’s power purchase agreement in January 2016 delayed Hawaii’s transition to renewable energy mandated by state law and the feedstock for Hu Honua’s biomass power plant was to include, among other things, woody invasive plant species on Hawaii Island.  Hu Honua’s productive use of such overgrown and invasive species would benefit the environment and mitigate well-documented wildfire risks presented by such overgrowth.

The updated complaint alleges that Hawaiian Electric has acted “with shameless arrogance and disregard not just for competition, but for the people, economy, and environment of Hawaii Island.”  Hu Honua asks the U.S. District Court sitting in Honolulu to allow the case to move ahead based on the updated complaint.  Hu Honua seeks an end to all monopolistic conduct and requests the Court award it more than $1 billion in antitrust damages.  Hu Honua also requests that Hawaiian Electric be ordered to transfer its Hamakua power plant, a facility Hawaiian Electric acquired via a “straw purchase” scheme, to an independent owner to restore competition for the benefit of Hawaii Island ratepayers. This “straw purchase” was designed to obscure Hawaiian Electric’s controlling interest after state regulators had denied its previous bid to acquire Hamakua.

“Hu Honua’s newly constructed facility would bring reliable, renewable energy to Hawaii Island at a competitive price, but sits idle today solely due to Hawaiian Electric’s predatory and anticompetitive conduct, which it has ruthlessly wielded to entrench and expand its monopoly over Hawaii’s power sector,” said Daniel G. Swanson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, attorney for Hu Honua.

Hawaii residents, including those on Hawaii Island, already face the highest average electricity prices by far in the United States—nearly three times the U.S. average price—due to costly imported petroleum products being burned in Hawaiian Electric’s aging and increasingly unreliable power generation facilities, whose costly operation continues to be extended and protected by Hawaiian Electric’s monopoly.  According to the updated complaint, by keeping Hu Honua out of the market and acquiring the largest independent power plant on Hawaii Island from Hamakua Energy Partners, L.P. in 2017, Hawaiian Electric has cornered more than 90 percent and at times nearly 100 percent of all firm power generation capacity on the Island.  Since 2017, ratepayers have seen their electric rates skyrocket by 50-100 percent or more while energy reserve margins have deteriorated, and the risk of power outages has increased.  Hawaii Island residents have been instructed at least nine times between August 2022 and March 2023 to reduce power consumption during peak hours.