Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two part letter sent to The Garden Island in response to recent letters published on the Forum page. Due to the length of the letters, they are being presented as guest commentary.
In the first part of this note I corrected the economic and financial misstatements from KIUC’s perennial naysayers. In this second of two notes I will correct the errors and misinformation in TGI Letters from 4/1/06 and 5/18 regarding alternative energy.
“Doesn’t promote meaningful alternative energy” n KIUC’s four-project plan seems very meaningful to me. KIUC is pushing forward with 10-14MW from wind turbines, 4.2MW from one biomass project, 7.5MW from another biomass project, and 5.3MW from burning garbage. These numbers add up to a very meaningful 27-31MW. 30MW is very significant considering current peak load is only 75MW and overnight off-peak load is only 30MW.
“Makes it expensive and difficult to convert to solar water heating” nAfter KIUC took over several rules associated with qualifying for the solar hot water rebate program were eliminated allowing many more people to qualify. And KIUC Directors’listened to the members who said they couldn’t afford the cost of a solar hot water system even with the rebate so KIUC now offers the zero-interest loan program. This program allows KIUC members to install solar hot water systems with nothing down and zero interest. I know from the years I served on KIUC’s board, the company would very much like to see solar hot water heating on every roof of Kaua‘i. At the Contractors’ Association Fair last weekend, KIUC’s booth featured the Solar Hot Water Loan program and passed out hundreds of solar hot water loan and rebate information packets. While at the booth on Saturday I heard KIUC’s representatives say over and over to interested members, “If you don’t have solar hot water we’d like you to be able to get it.”
“Insist on approved contractors” n There is nothing nefarious about KIUC having a list of approved contractors. KIUC has an interest that the resulting system be truly effective at reducing demand for electricity. The easiest way to insure good work is to require good workers. It isn’t hard to become an approved contractor by KIUC; you just have to have to appropriate licenses, knowledge, staff, and equipment.
“…the price differential being used to give the customer (who uses an approved contractor) a rebate by KIUC…” n In this exact quote the naysayer accuses KIUC employees of fraud n of taking money from the contractors and using that to fund the rebate program. This is disproved on a monthly basis every time KIUC files its financial reports with the PUC and is disproved every year when KIUC is audited by an independent auditing firm.
“renewable projects add up to just a percent or two” – Taken together the projects KIUC engineering staff is moving forward will result in an increase from the current seven percent of electricity we get from renewables (mostly from several small hydros) to about forty-five percent. Any way you look at it, increasing the production from renewable by more than six times, or stated another way, getting almost half our electricity from renewables qualifies as way more than just a percent or two.
“Absence of a real CEO” n I don’t know exactly what they mean by a real CEO, but KIUC CEO Dutch Achenbach was selected after a nationwide search performed by an executive search firm with the most experience filling these kinds of positions. He was advanced by that search firm as one of the most qualified candidates. And before coming to KIUC he held a similar top position at another electric co-op.
“COO of unknown qualifications” – Randy Hee, KIUC COO, has qualifications that are known to a lot of people statewide. He’s worked in the electric utility industry for years. Before accepting the COO position Randy was the senior manager at the power plant in Kapaia where he received near universal praise for putting together an incredibly cohesive and well-run team of employees n and isn’t that pretty much what you would want from a COO?
Can KIUC do better? Sure, and so can we members. KIUC’s solar hot water loan program is a big thing KIUC employees are doing to make things better. Let’s get a solar hot water system on every roof on Kaua‘i. If you can afford to pay the purchase price, install one and get the KIUC rebate. And, if you can’t afford the whole purchase price, take advantage of the zero-interest KIUC loan program and put the savings on your electric bill toward paying off the loan. If you already have solar hot water system, tell your friends to get one.
Pushing forward on KIUC’s four alternative / renewable energy projects is another big step in exactly the right direction. While the price of oil goes up, the price of biomass crops will remain relatively stable, the wind remains free, and burning garbage is good for more reasons than just less expensive electricity. As the site selection and permitting begins, let’s all help KIUC, help ourselves and help our island, by supporting the projects.
• Walt Barnes is a former director of KIUC and resident of Wailua Homesteads.