Thielen wants to encourage co-op behavior

Editor’s note: Today marks the final 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., Saturday. The final profile is Peter Thielen.

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative Board of Directors candidate Peter Thielen knows he comes across as a maverick and an outsider.

“I have never ran for anything (in an election),” Thielen said. “When I ran around to get signatures, I got a feeling from many people that they (KIUC) were not acting like a co-op.”

Thielen wants on the board to help steer KIUC toward co-op behavior, he says.

Thielen was among three KIUC members who successfully petitioned to be on the ballot for the Board of Directors election. Besides Thielen, Carol Bain and Jim Mayfield acquired the signatures required.

The other four candidates nominated by committee in January to run for the seats are: Dee Crowell, David Iha, Raymond Paler and Allan Smith.

Crowell, Mayfield and Paler are the incumbents.

Thielen owns Peter Thielen Construction. As a general contractor since 1995, he works with electricians, plumbers and other tradesmen responsible for installing electrical systems.

“I’m a general contractor, I’m 49 years old, I’ve been around for a while,” he said. “I’ve run several different companies, including residential and business, and new construction … I usually encourage solar when I am building. When you look at people’s bills, heating with electricity, and the heating of water with electricity is the largest portion of the bill.”

Thielen wants to change that.

“There is nobody in the construction industry or electrical industry on the board,” he said. “Somebody who is in the trades would be a definite advantage.”

Thielen sees hope in a recently introduced solar program that will allow members savings when they install solar panels. One of the elements of the program troubles him, though.

“If you produce more energy than you need, you cannot feed it back into the grid,” he said. “A co-op should be working toward each individual member generating their own electricity and create a system, or a situation where the island as a whole needs less energy.”

“I am kind of upset the board has not moved quicker on this,” Thielen said.

The father of two sons has been on Kaua‘i since 1992. He also manages a hemp clothing store, Island Hemp Wear, with his wife, Shannon. “Shannon does all the books for my contracting business as well,” Thielen said.

Thielen’s mother is Hawai‘i 50th District state Rep. Cynthia Thielen, Kailua, on O‘ahu. “She has been a big proponent of wave energy,” he said.

Thielen is able to recite energy history of Kaua‘i like he is talking about one of his kids.

“In 1980, back then, 45 percent of our electricity was coming from the gas of the sugar cane industry, another 4.5 percent was coming from hydroelectric. What we have done in the last 20 to 25 years is make the situation worse. As the sugar cane industry died we were running at approximately 50 percent of our energy coming from oil. Now I believe that we are at 80 percent,” he said.

Thielen feels KIUC is still going through growing pains and he wants to be on the board as the co-op works through them.

“I don’t think they have completed the change from a for-profit company to a co-op … they have not made the mental change … I think that it’s going to take some changes to the board of directors to make that happen.”

Thielen would like to see the solar program expanded to make it easier and more cost efficient. Easier loan acquisition and lower interest rates are a couple ways to accomplish that, while allowing other outlets to provide material, Thielen said. He would like to see the cost of installation drop to $3,800 from $5,000.

“My goal is to see Kaua‘i be energy self sufficient,” he said. “If I can’t see that becoming a reality in three years, I will not run again … if we can’t move in that direction we need to do something so we can.”

• Adam Harju, editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 227) or aharju@kauaipubco.com

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