by Renelaine Pfister
On June 30, 2022, Gov. David Ige appointed Leodoloff (Leo) Asuncion Jr. as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission.
Leo is the only child of immigrant parents from the Philippines. His father is from Ilocos Norte and his mother is from Aparri, Cagayan. He grew up in downtown Honolulu where Queen’s POB 2 now stands.
He attended Royal Elementary, Central Intermediate (now Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani Middle School), and McKinley High School, and went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Hawaiʻi Pacific University, a master’s degree in urban and regional planning and a BA in political science from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
After the governor’s appointment, Leo is now one of three commissioners on the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (HPUC), and as Chairperson, is the default presiding officer for proceedings and the administrative head of the agency.
The HPUC’s primary duty, Leo states, “is to protect the public interest by overseeing and regulating public utilities to ensure that they provide reliable service at just and reasonable rates. When people hear the term “public utilities” it’s not just the electric utilities. We regulate over 1,800 entities operating in Hawaii including all chartered, franchised, certificated, and registered public utility companies that provide electricity, gas, telecommunications, private water and wastewater, and motor and water carrier transportation services in the State.”
No matter the size of the projects in his 30-year experience in both private and public sectors, Leo has always believed in collaborative effort.
Currently at HPUC, there are several issues that he and his team will need to address, including the retirement of the coal plant on Oahu in September of this year and the closure of the Kahului Power Plant in Maui in 2024. They must ensure that reliable electricity is available for customers.
Additionally, Leo says “We should be considering the full portfolio of renewable energy resources available and determine the appropriateness of each resource to ensure reliable energy for customers and achieve our State goals.”
Another area to address is the strengthening of relationships between the HPUC and regulated utilities, elected officials, state and county governmental agencies, and stakeholders.
Leo has served in various roles at the Office of Planning since June 2011, including Planning Program Manager for Hawaii Coastal Zone Management Program, Interim Director, Director, and Planning Program Administrator.
Before his service at the Office of Planning, Leo worked for Hawaiian Electric Company as a Sr. Regulatory Analyst and Sr. Integrated Resource Planning Analyst, and for SSFM International, Inc. as a Project Planner/ Manager. Earlier in his career, Leo was a Planner for Hawaii State Judiciary and a Staff Planner for the State Land Use Commission, Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism in the state of Hawaii.
When he is not working, Leo takes his time to relax, mingle with the community, see his relatives on the island, play golf once a month and travel with friends to the mainland once a year.
Among his proudest achievements is being appointed Director of the Office of Planning and being appointed to the Public Utilities Commission, both made by Governor Ige. On January 1, 2021, he was also elected President of the American Planning Association (APA), with some 40,000-member planners nationwide.
When he was growing up, Leo’s parents and teachers instilled in him the importance of education and hard work. Leo says, “Find your passion, get an education, seek meaningful employment, persevere through the challenges, and never lose sight of your ambitions. Doing so will not only be beneficial for oneself but for Hawaiʻi as well.”
by Renelaine Pfister