Renewables dominate KIUC forum

If Kaua‘i is to reach energy self-sufficiency, the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative should stock solar water heater equipment and install them at homes, some board candidates suggested at a forum last night.

“I feel the biggest role we can play is to have stock on the island,” Peter Thielen told more than 30 audience members at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall.

Allan Smith said KIUC or some other entity could finance and maintain solar water projects installed at homes.

“We need to be more bold and innovative than our present methods,” he said.

KIUC has only distributed energy-efficient light bulbs at no cost and rebates for solar energy projects, but the results have been disappointing, candidate Dee Crowell said.

Apollo Kauai, a group of concerned residents fostering what it hopes will be a secure energy future for the island, and The Garden Island sponsored the forum.

“It will provide some logic for why people should vote for one candidate over another, rather than just vote for somebody you know,” Apollo Kauai spokesman Ben Sullivan said.

Carol Bain, a former communication and journalism instructor at the Kaua‘i Community College, Thielen, owner of Peter Thielen Construction, and Jim Mayfield, a retired Bank of Hawaii executive and now president of Island Business Services, successfully petitioned to be on the ballot for the upcoming election, joining four other candidates nominated by a committee.

Smith is a retired Grove Farm executive. Crowell is a former county planning director who serves as the board’s vice chairman. David Iha is the former KCC provost. Raymond Paler is currently the board secretary.

The seven candidates are competing for three seats on the nine-member board whose three-year terms are expiring.

KIUC members will receive ballots later this month and must mail or deliver to KIUC headquarters in Lihu‘e by noon March 17.

Audience member Gabriela Taylor said she is passionate about Kaua‘i benefiting from renewable energy sources and wondered what expertise the candidates had on the subject.

All candidates said in some form or another that they supported renewable energy.

Bain indicated if she is elected, she would support ongoing KIUC explorations of wind and hydropower technologies, as did Paler, who was raised by an electrician father who worked on two hydropower plants on the Eastside and saw their benefits.

KIUC owns the plants once owned by Lihue Plantation.

Mayfield said he is familiar with wind technology, and brought two proponents of hydropower technology to KIUC managers.

Neither Smith, Crowell nor Thielen could answer Kaua‘i County Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura’s question on the four conditions for a sustainable renewable energy source.

“I don’t know what the test for sustainability is, but I am using experience,” Smith said of his many years in helping Grove Farm manage tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land. He said any project selected should be environmentally safe, make financial sense and stand up to natural disasters.

Crowell said every project will have its pros and cons, and that while he had no preference for any one technology, whatever is used will evolve and must be acceptable to the community.

Thielen said the sun is the ultimate example of sustainability, but whatever technology is selected should be carried out on a small scale first.

Cost and the time it will take to build and make the technology operational are two of Thielen’s chief concerns.

On another question from the audience about ways to encourage energy conservation, Thielen said solar panels cost $500 each, and if KIUC were to buy them in bulk and store them, “the cost would be cut in half.”

What will work is a combination of technologies, Crowell said. “To get the overall impact, you have to see what all the stuff does for you at one time.”

Smith said KIUC or another entity should finance the purchase and maintenance of solar water-heating systems to encourage conservation. Home-owners can then pay off the purchase through monthly bills.

A seventh candidate, Iha, was off-island and didn’t participate in the forum.

Sullivan said detailed questions asked of candidates and their responses will be posted on www.apollokauai.org in two days or so.

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