Letters for Sunday, February 11, 2007

• On the Feb. 27 KIUC hearing

• My country ‘tis of thee

On the Feb. 27 KIUC hearing

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative wants to monopolize energy on the Garden Island.

You only need to read your electric bill to realize that you pay a higher cost per kilowatt hour than any state in the country. You pay over twice the amount of any resident on the Big Island, O‘ahu, or Maui.

The reason is simple … you have no alternatives. Alternatives are coming and KIUC is going to see that you cannot take advantage of them. KIUC has gone to the Public Utilities Commission and requested an increase in the standby charge from a current $5 per kilowatt to $35.

The sole reason they give to the Public Utilities Commission is they haven’t updated the price list since 1988. It might be noted that Kaua‘i had competitive prices prior to 1988. Since 1988, KIUC has systematically raised prices to a staggering level. The reason for their concern and urgency is the rapid adoption of alternative energies like photovoltaic solar, and wind that require being tied into the grid since they cannot supply power when light is not shining and the wind is not blowing. If you were to install a 30KW peak photovoltaic system on your property, KIUC would charge you $1,050 per month to be connected plus .32 cents per kilowatt hour you used during the month.

The average household would roughly consume 7 kilowatts per hour. This assumes no air conditioning, pool equipment, or workshop. You can double that to 15 kilowatts if you have that. If you decided to install a 30 kilowatt photovoltaic system you would generate approximately 4 kilowatts from dawn until dusk. Theoretically, that would reduce your monthly power bill by roughly $500.

But not so fast, there is a catch.

KIUC wants you to pay 30KW times $35 per KW per month to tie into the grid when your system is not working. That means you will pay them $1,050, for that right, causing you to lose money.

Their justification for this armed robbery is that “they have to have the producing capability in case your system isn’t working.”

That is ridiculous.

First, they already have the capacity they were supplying to your home, and, secondly, as more people turn to alternative sources of energy supply, the probability of everyonea going down simultaneously approaches zero. Currently, there are two projects underway in Po‘ipu and Lihu‘e to install cogeneration systems. These are 500KW systems which will generate extra electricity to the grid to provide KIUC electricity at .16 cents per kilowatt hour. well below the .32 cents per hour they are charging you. The reason they can do this is they can use the heat from the engines to generate chilled water that can be used to air condition their hotel rooms and facilities. Thus their cost to generate drops to about .12 cents per kilowatt hour. But KIUC wants to thwart these types of projects by forcing them to pay $17,500 per month to be hooked to the grid instead of the current $2,500 per month.

KIUC has had a monopoly long enough. Our island needs diversified affordable energy costs. Multiple sources of energy will ensure more rapid recovery in the event of storms, more stable line voltages to preserve electronics and appliances and a robust competitive environment to benefit the consumer. KIUC will try to tell you that this doesn’t affect you. It does. Cost to hospitals will go up, which will effect you. Cost to hotels will go up which makes them less competitive than neighboring island hotels which affects tourism, and energy cost will remain high which effects food and the building costs of affordable housing. KIUC has informed you of a Public Hearing on Feb. 27. They hope you won’t attend. Everyone should attend. Ask the PUC to decline their request and ask them to investigate why our rates are .32 cents per kilowatt hour and our neighbors are half of that. This is about “big business” and the big business is KIUC. They have been gouging us and now they want to make sure they can keep gouging us.

Richard Schump


My country ‘tis of thee

It didn’t happen overnight.

It was a process.

Slow but steady, never wavering, often flirting with that fine line of legality and on occasion, fat with ego and power, crossing that line.

While you snoozed, dear reader, (you don’t mind if I call you “Sleepy,” do you? He was my favorite character in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) happily dreaming of your next precious purchase, you know, that one that would finally bring wholeness to your rather empty, boring, superficial existence … your country was sold. Yep, that’s right, the good ‘ol “U” “S” of “A” we kids read about in our history books … going, going … gone.

“But,” you say, “How can that be? I look out the window and everything looks as it always has. I still get to choose my political party and who to vote for. I listen to the news and I didn’t hear anything about a sale. No one mentioned at the office today, besides, they can’t do that … can they?”

Well, of course not, I was just joshin’ ya. That would not be legal. Besides, “Sleepy,” you and your fellow dwarves would be up in arms. There would be a revolution and thanks to the good ‘ol boys at the National Rifle Association, you folks have the guns, lots of guns. Even your kids and grandkids have guns. “Two and a half guns per household,” says the Census Bureau. What anyone wants a half gun for is a mystery and raises other questions such as, “Is it better to own the front or back half of a gun, and where do you go to purchase the other half?”

Anyway, those corporate dudes wouldn’t stand a chance against your two and a half guns. But, what if, and I am only saying “if,” in the strictest hypothetical case, the big boys, instead of buying America, only bought the politicians? You know … “wink, nod, slip ‘em a little spare change, fly them on a private jet for a game of golf at some resort vacation destination, throw a couple of a hundred thousand green claims into their campaign tithing hat.”

Welcome to the clandestine fraternal order of the “You Do For Me, I Do For You Club,” a not so secret inner sanctum for the privileged.

“Well,” says Sleepy. “That would never happen in ‘merica. Why that would open the door to all sorts of constitutional abuse, it would undermine the very democratic principles our founding fathers used to establish the United States Constitution, like the right to fight for our freedom in Iraq.”

I don’t know, this is all too confusing. Anyway, my life’s not all that bad. Check out all the cool stuff I put myself in deep debt over, bulging from my garage. I even have a filled, doublewide storage locker. I’m living the ‘merican dream. Talking about dreams, this conversation has plum-tuckered me out. I am ready to return to that land of snooze. “Will you please get the lights on the way out?”

Michael Fox



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