Paler wants more hydropower projects for KIUC

Editor’s note: Today marks the sixth, of seven profiles of candidates running for the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative Board of Directors. The candidates are competing to fill three seats made available as three-year terms expire on the nine-man board. The candidates are: Carol Bain, Jim Mayfield, Peter Thielen, Dee Crowell, David Iha, Raymond W. Paler and Allan A. Smith. Ballots were mailed the week of Feb. 25 and voting will close at 12 p.m., March 17. Today’s profile is Ray Paler.

If re-elected to the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative board, Ray Paler said he will push for more hydropower projects to help Kaua‘i lessen its dependence on oil.

Paler, currently the board’s secretary, said he saw its benefits growing up on the Garden Island.

“My father was an electrician who worked on two hydropower projects owned by Lihu‘e Plantation,” said Paler, one of seven candidates vying for three board seats in this month’s election. The two units on the mauka side in the Lihu‘e District are now owned by KIUC.

The motivation for KIUC to develop or support more hydropower projects exists, he said.

“We currently have at least four different hydropower sites KIUC buys power from,” he said. “There are others on the board who support hydropower.”

With 90 percent of the island’s electricity derived from oil, KIUC has begun exploring more alternative energy projects in response to public demand, co-op representatives have said.

KIUC received proposals from 20 renewable energy companies and is moving ahead on four proposals, one of which involves the development of a new type of hydropower system, Paler said.

The system would not require building a dam, which environmentalists say would take too much water out of streams and rivers and hurt fish, other life forms and their niches, Paler said.

The new hydropower plant would pull water out to make electricity but would return it to the stream and river, he said.

“Once people understand it, they will see the merits of it,” he said.

The developers of such projects will experience more success if they form partnerships, he said.

KIUC also has received requests from companies proposing to build wind turbines, biomass projects and projects that capture methane gas to create energy, Paler said. Before any projects can fly, the developers must secure the use of the land, either through a lease or purchase, and obtain county Planning Commission approval.

Burning coal, another option, may be cheaper to use than oil, but no law exists today in Hawai‘i to tax utilities that discharge carbon dioxide emissions.

“Even though there is technology that could mitigate the emissions, there are still issues,” he said.

In the end, if the economics don’t work out, a company may not move ahead, Paler said.

As KIUC waits for renewable energy projects to be selected, Paler said he, as the head of the board’s policy committee,” has successfully pushed through policy changes to ensure KIUC operates more efficiently and brings the best rate of return for service to its customers.

Paler also said it is premature to increase a $5 kilowatt standby rate for large-scale producers of electricity who are on the KIUC grid. “It is just not the time,” Paler said.

Currently only the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital and owners of a large resident property on Kaua‘i would be affected by any new rates.

Paler ran for a seat on the Kaua‘i County Council in 2002, and is currently the manager of KAWV 98.1 FM, and former owner of Kaua‘i Paging and Communications.

A graduate of Kaua‘i High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Indiana University.

Paler is married and has three children.

• Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com

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