Change at the Top of HELCO

Jan 22, 2019

HELCO President Jay Ignacio and Maui Electric President Sharon Suzuki
Credit Sherry Bracken

Hawaii Island’s electric utility, HELCO, has had a year of challenges.  In the 2018 lava flow, HELCO lost lines and poles that served more than 940 structures. The company lost the 30 megawatts of power being supplied by Puna Geothermal. But as HELCO deals with this work, it will do so under new leadership.

Last week, HELCO announced that President Jay Ignacio will retire after nearly 30 years with the company, with ten as president.   His retirement date is February 2nd. 

“I’m gonna take time off, work on things I’ve procrastinated over the years. I’ve been focused on utility business. I haven’t done much on my property. I want to see if I can do growing some of my own food, finishing the fencing. And then stay involved with some of the community service organizations that I’m linked to.”

Ignacio, looking back, says he feels HELCO has a bright future.

“In 1992 we had those rolling blackouts, that was a difficult time, but in parallel with building our generation, we rebuilt almost our entire transmission and distribution system. We spent almost 30 years rebuilding that. I think we’re in a very good place with the projects we have coming online, new photovoltaic and battery storage projects, put us in a really good place to make the next step, with the infrastructure we built, and now moving to renewables. The next 30 years is probably going to be just as interesting and challenging as the past thirty.”

Current Maui Electric President Sharon Suzuki has been tapped to lead HELCO, in addition to Maui Electric.

“I’m coming at it from the customer service side. I’ve been working with Jay, transitioning, meeting with community stakeholders and the employees. I think we need to bring our team out to the communities and listen to their concerns, and try to address them before we just move forward with these projects, and working with developers and our partners to make sure they share this same philosophy.”

The Maui-based Suzuki says she will rely heavily on the HELCO team’s expertise, and be on Hawaii Island at least twice a week.