The ink was barely dry on the pages of contracts that were signed on Halloween before a nominating committee had been formed, the search begun for new board members, and signs changed to reflect the official change in ownership of the island’s electric company from Kauai Electric to Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative.
Kauai Electric logos on trucks, building entry doors and other places rapidly gave way to new KIUC logos, and with several swipes of the pen Citizens Communications Company of Stamford, Conn. was left with only The Gas Company operations as its Hawai’i holdings.
The sale of KE to KIUC, for $215 million, became official in the early morning hours of yesterday, Friday, Nov. 1, when wire transfers of funds were confirmed.
A nominating committee made up of KIUC members, not board members, beginning next month will be asking people if they would be interested in serving on the KIUC board, said Gregg Gardiner, KIUC board chairman.
By the co-op’s bylaws, anyone can be nominated for consideration as a board member by securing signatures of 35 KIUC members on a petition, he added.
All rate-payers are automatically KIUC members, unless they voluntarily opt out of membership. So far, only a handful of Kaua’i rate-payers have declined KIUC membership. They will still get electricity, but won’t be eligible for expected rebates.
An election to seat a new KIUC board of directors could occur as early as January, but more likely will happen in late February or early March, he said.
“This is an historic moment for the people of Kaua’i, as we now own our island’s electric utility, and have control over our energy future,” said Gardiner.
“We look forward to the ability to reduce our island’s high cost of electricity through the benefits of cooperative ownership,” he said.
“We believe that our electric utility should be controlled by people who live here and who are passionate about protecting our beautiful environment,” Gardiner added. “This allows us to keep tens of millions of dollars from leaving the island’s economy.”
Alton Miyamoto, KIUC president and chief executive officer, said, “Over the next 10 years, we expect that rate-payers will see over $26 million in rate relief, money returned to their pocketbooks, while the co-op, which will be 100-percent owned and controlled by the people it serves, will build up a solid financial cushion.”
Former Kaua’i Mayor and KIUC board member JoAnn Yukimura said another benefit of co-op ownership is that KIUC will be eligible for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) disaster assistance.
“This assures us of our ability to withstand another disaster like ‘Iniki, and with FEMA reimbursement for about 75 percent of the cost of restoration, we would not face the same likelihood of having to raise rates, as was the case after ‘Iniki,” she said.
Gardiner thanked the Hawai’i delegation in the U.S. Congress, the unpaid KIUC board members, the people of Kaua’i, the state Public Utilities Commission members and staff, representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, among others, for support and assistance.
Further, he thanked the state consumer advocate, representatives of the County of Kauai and federal Department of the Navy.
“Citizens appreciates the support of the residents and businesses of Kaua’i over the last three decades that we have owned and operated Kaua’i Electric,” said Jim Yates, vice president of Hawai’i energy operations for Citizens.
“The people of Kaua’i and especially the employees of Kauai Electric worked together to overcome the devastating effects of Hurricanes ‘Iwa and ‘Iniki,” Yates said.
“Since that time, major upgrades have been made to the electric infrastructure on Kaua’i to ensure reliable electric service for the people of this beautiful island,” he added.
“We are extremely pleased that the sale agreement with KIUC ensures employment with similar benefits for all existing Kauai Electric employees. We are confident that they will continue their dedication to excellent customer service,” Yates said.
“I’m especially proud of all of our Kauai Electric employees who have worked diligently for the past three years to make the sale to the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative a reality.
“Their hard work, combined with the efforts of KIUC, the Public Utilities Commission, the Division of Consumer Advocacy, the Department of the Navy, the County of Kauai and the people of Kaua’i played a critical role in this important sale,” Yates noted.
Citizens purchased Kauai Electric from McBryde Sugar in 1969.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).