CIRA de CASTILLOTGI Staff Writer
WAIMEA — Imagine flipping on a light switch and knowing that the electrical
power you just tapped into is coming from a company that you own—that’s the
idea behind an electric cooperative.
Westside residents attended the
first in a series of town meetings yesterday at the Waimea Neighborhood Center
to hear representatives of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative talk about
their plans to convert Kauai Electric, a for-profit company, into a nonprofit
KIUC is in the process of acquiring KE. The $270
million sale must be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission. The
co-op’s application for approval is pending.
Dick Heitman, KIUC
transition team leader, told about 25 Westsiders who attended the meeting that
an important part of the purchase process is that residents understand how the
co-op is going to work and the associated benefits that come with a cooperative
Heitman said the management and employees of electric
cooperatives have strong ties to the community and that service, not profit, is
the driving force.
“Consumers will have local control of their electric
company,” he said.
Gregg Gardiner, chairman of the KIUC executive
committee, said that the sale of KE to the co-op will ensure that rates will
not increase over the next 10-15 years.
Over time as member equity builds,
he said, consumers will look forward to lower electrical costs.
a legacy for future generations,” he said.
Denny Polosky, KE vice
president and general manager, told the group that his team is committed to
continuing to provide the same level of service the community has come to
expect from KE. His goal, he said, is to make the transition to a stand-alone
electric company as seamless as possible for the customers.
make me more happy if at the end of this the only difference for customers is
that they will see another name on their electric bill.”
attorney for the KIUC team who is handling the regulatory side of the buyout of
KE, said the timetable is for the PUC regulatory process review to be completed
by September and the final transition from KE to co-op by the end of the year.
“I am amazed that a group of citizens anywhere could have gotten
together to form a cooperative like this in such a short period of time,” he
said. “And on a national level attract the type of financing it has attracted
and put in a bid against companies like Morgan Stanley to make this happen.”
The Division of Consumer Advocacy, the state agency that looks out for
the ratepayers interests, has contracted a consultant to assist with analyzing
the impacts of the sale of KE on customers.
“There is a great deal of
interest in how a cooperative electric company will work in Hawaii, and we will
be taking an active and close look at the PUC application,” said Sharon Nishi,
a CA representative who attended the Waimea meeting.
As well, she said her
staff will be taking a careful look at the co-op’s bylaws.
The co-op’s PUC
application and the proposed by-laws are available at public libraries. The
next town meetings will be held on Wednesday, May 10, at the Kilauea
Neighborhood Center at 4 and 6 p. m. If you have question about the meetings
call Jenny Fujita at 246-8292 or Claire Morris at 332-0065.