KIUC offers a taste of ‘thinking beyond the barrel’

‘Thinking beyond the barrel’ represents the work ahead for Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative.

It also served as the theme for this year’s general membership meeting and celebration, Saturday at the North Vidinha soccer fields. A steady flow of people checked out the event throughout the day.

“KIUC is committing itself to generate at least 50 percent of its electricity renewably without burning fossil fuels within 15 years,” says Dennis Esaki, KIUC board chair, in the annual report distributed at the event.

At the heart of this effort is awareness and Shelley Paik, the KIUC community relations officer, pointed out a new renewable energy trailer which was parked strategically near the entrance to the event.

Biomass Girl, Wind Turbine, Waste to Energy, Methane Man, Hydro and Solar are characters that represent the various sources of renewable energy KIUC can tap, said Steve Rymsha, one of the staff engineers from KIUC who was helping guide people through the trailer.

Those characters are very predominant around the trailer and will greet the public when the trailer is displayed.

“We plan to be everywhere,” Rymsha said.

One of the obvious features of the trailer is a windmill which generates electric current via an inverter.

A less obvious feature is a photovoltaic system mounted atop the trailer’s roof. A panel inside the trailer shows how much current is being generated by the sunlight.

KIUC members who took in the event had a lot of questions and KIUC obliged. Several of its engineers were available to talk to members and answer questions about windmills and solar power, the two most common topics.

“We must stop depending on oil to generate most of our electricity when its rising price is completely beyond our control and adversely affects our members,” Esaki said.

In keeping with the renewable energy sources theme, members segregated their trash from the lunch, snacks and refreshments in specially marked containers through a coordinated effort with Zero Waste Kaua‘i.

“We live in a time when we can change our energy future and how we affect our environment,” says Randy Hee, president and chief executive officer, in the annual report.

Hee was talking about the 15-year Strategic Plan developed by the KIUC board and staff in response to the challenges of global energy supply and climate change.

“The Strategic Plan focuses on reliability, sustainable energy supplies and fair and competitive rates,” Hee said. “The balance of these three points determines how well we serve our members and customers on Kaua‘i.”

Esaki said the renewable generation and rate restructuring goals are radical ideas for both KIUC as well as for the electric utility industry in Hawai‘i.

“Achieving these goals will not be quick or easy and we expect to learn many things along the way,” he said. “But doing the right thing is not always easy.”

Throughout the day, a list of entertainers provided music for members while their children engaged in a variety of activities geared for keiki, including the availability of inflatable waterslides which fit the bill for cooling down in the hot Saturday sun.

The Sons of Hawai‘i Kaua‘i Chapter worked alongside KIUC board members and staff in flipping burgers for the constant stream of people, and similarly, health agencies and organizations offered up a variety of information on its programs in a mini-health fair set up for members to browse through while enjoying the KIUC offering.

• Dennis Fujimoto can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com

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