Westsiders get electric co-op preview

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

electric cooperative.

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

utility company.

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.

“This is

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.

“Nothing would

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.”

Allan Oshima,

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.

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