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Company's roots go back to King Kalakaua's reign


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In an era of gas lamps, it was King David Kalakaua who helped pioneer the introduction of electricity to the Hawaiian kingdom, helping Hawaiian Electric Co. come to light.

Four founding partners launched HECO and incorporated it in 1891 under the laws of the kingdom of Hawaii, with assets of $17,000.

HECO provided electricity to Waikiki hotels and Oahu homes. The company would go on to power Honolulu's trolley cars and open an office on King Street in 1927, where it is today, and expand to Maui and the Big Isle.

Fast-forward 54 years to 1981, and Hawaiian Electric Industries was formed as a holding company, with HECO becoming its subsidiary. It has since been on a path toward developing renewable energy sources.

HEI's principal subsidiaries are not only in the electric utility sector, but in banking and other businesses in Hawaii.

In 1988, HEI acquired American Savings Bank from the bank's Utah parent for $115 million. American Savings has 61 branches and more than $5 billion in assets today.

In October 2008, HECO signed a historic Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative with Gov. Linda Lingle, putting the state on a path to supply 40 percent of electricity needs and 70 percent of overall energy needs using clean sources by 2030.

Recently, HECO built a 110-megawatt biodiesel plant at Campbell Industrial Park on Oahu, and is seeking a supplier.

Richard Rosenblum, who became HECO's president and chief executive officer this year, initiated the nation's largest solar photovoltaic project in Southern California. It is proposing one for Hawaii.

HECO has about $3.95 billion in assets. HEI, a Fortune 500 company with more than $9 billion in assets, supplies the energy needs of more than 400,000 customers, or 95 percent of the Hawaii market.