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Ellison Aims to Take Over Lanai Grid

image credit: ID 78959834 © Debra Tosca |

Just 140.5 square miles and boasting a population of 3,102, Lanai is Hawaii’s smallest publicly accessible inhabited island. About 98 percent of the island is owned by Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder and chairman or Oracle, while the rest belongs to the state and private homeowners. Pretty interesting, ey? 

Ellison, it turns out, is not content to keep Lanai as merely a vacation escape. News broke last week that he’s in negotiations with  Pulama Lanai, the island’s grid operator, to buy the Lanai’s entire power system. For Pulama Lanai, the potential benefits of such a takeover are enticing: Ellison could speed up the transition to renewables and slash electricity costs for residents (Lanai has the most expensive in Hawaii, cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity averaging 41.1 cents in December). I’m not sure exactly what Ellison’s angle is, or if there is one, but he has expressed his desire to make the island more stable and economically in the past. 

The deal is not done yet, however. Should the two sides come to an agreement, the purchase would be subject to approval by the state’s Public Utilities Commission. It would also be scrutinized by the state consumer advocate. 

It should be noted that this private takeover possibility stands in stark contrast to rumors of public grid purchases in places like San Francisco last year. 

If this does go through, it will be interesting to see what kind of grid a tech mogul with a proven record of ingenuity and efficiency can build. Maybe Ellison’s example on Lanai will be instructive for the rest of Hawaii, and possibly the world.


Henry Craver's picture

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 15, 2020 5:16 pm GMT

I’m not sure exactly what Ellison’s angle is, or if there is one, but he has expressed his desire to make the island more stable and economically in the past. 

This is the million dollar (probably more than that!) question-- is he looking to be an innovation leader and demonstrate what can be possible if people follow his vision? Or is it more just about the island and making its grid as resilient as possible? 

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