KIUC squabble seen as ‘growing pains’

Just as it will take some time before Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative executives and directors will strike a balance of who’s doing what at KIUC, it is also natural for some folks to have issues with decisions being made at KIUC, said the head of the national organization of electric coops.

Some people can’t get their arms around the adjustment from being customers of an investor-owned utility to being owners of a nonprofit cooperative, said Glenn English, chief executive officer of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

On Kaua’i last week for an NRECA regional directors’ meeting, English stopped in to the offices of The Garden Island for a conversation on the cooperative model, KIUC, and other topics.

“As I understand it, you’ve got growing pains. You’re bound to see some grinding of gears” in situations like this, English said.

Some people can’t get a handle on going from customers to members, from customers to owners. “It’s a cultural change,” and a co-op is a bit different from a municipality or county government, he explained.

But a co-op in some ways is like a governmental entity, in that it’s owned by the people, and therefore it’s up to the people to make it good or bad, English continued.

They can do good or stupid things, and make it a success or a failure, he said.

“A part of it all depends on who comes to the party, who comes to the annual meeting, who becomes involved, engaged. It works best when the people become involved.”

Instead of third-party investors, the customers are the investors, the owners of the business, and through their elected representatives they determine the direction of the coop, he explained.

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