Letters for Thursday, August 21, 2008

• Time to act on alternative energy sources

• Visitors pay taxes

Time to act on alternative energy sources

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative has been talking about how alternative energy is “important” and has been “investigating alternative energy sources” for far too long.

It’s time to move from words to action.

Since KIUC’s board has yet to come up with an immediately implementable solution, and because my bill continues to rise, I thought I’d offer a proposal of my own: I humbly submit we can begin using alternative energy on this island now, if KIUC in cooperation with the country government will implement the following four changes:

• Create new zoning law exceptions permitting the creation of alternative energy farms on some agriculturally zoned land. Only KIUC/501(c)3 organizations should be permitted to obtain these exceptions in order to prevent profiteering.

• Have KIUC start a new “ROEP” (‘resident-owned energy production’) program responsible for maintaining solar panels and/or wind turbine systems purchased and paid for by individual island residents. These systems would physically reside on the newly exception-zoned 501(c)3 property — the energy generated from them placed on the island’s electricity grid.

• Have KIUC and/or the Legislature remove all percentage limits on net-metering, and change the credit system to be per-account based instead of a per-address basis.

• Have KIUC restructure its billing system so the fixed costs of doing business are billed separately from the number of KWH purchased. Every consumer of electricity on Kaua`i would thus be billed a “subscription fee” for being attached to KIUCs electric lines. The fee per KWH would, in turn, be reduced to compensate for the change. KIUC in cooperation with the government may need to alter their system of assistance to poorer families in the wake of these changes.

Residents would purchase their power generation equipment directly through KIUC and would not need to take actual receipt of the equipment. Owners of the solar panels/wind turbine systems would then receive monthly wholesale net-metering credit for the energy their devices produce. This credit can then be applied to any residential and/or business address linked to the account. Costs incurred by the new ROEP program would be paid for with fees collected from ROEP participants. Energy unused by ROEP participants at the end of each month is forfeited to KIUC to help defray the costs of the ROEP program and to help lower the per KWH costs of non-participants.

KIUC benefits because they continue to be funded by island residents, and their power distribution system continues to be useful and profitable. They also benefit by being able to bring renewable energy to the island without having to pay for the most expensive part of doing so: the actual generation equipment. By using utility-grade inverter equipment and having complete control over the attachment and maintenance of the equipment to the grid, KIUC gets much better control over the injection of renewable energy into the grid than it would with tens of thousands of individual power generators all running tiny inverters. Finally, KIUC opens a new revenue stream in the form of collecting fees for maintaining customer equipment, for the use of KIUC transmission lines, and from forfeited excess energy.

All ROEP participants benefit by not having to pay the high middle-man costs of solar system construction. They also benefit from the ability to purchase generation equipment at bulk wholesale prices via KIUC. Further, they can purchase as little as a single solar panel (around $250) and still participate in the program, without needing to purchase additional inverter equipment or grid interface systems. They do not have to perform any maintenance or have any specialized knowledge.

Property owners benefit because they can net-zero meter without having to place solar and/or wind generation equipment on their own personal property. They also do not have to purchase mounting hardware, modify their homes, purchase grid interface equipment, or maintain their system.

Renters benefit because they can own alternative energy generation equipment, even though they would not be permitted to install that same equipment on their landlord’s property.

Those in windless or shaded areas benefit by being able to participate even though the equipment would not function well on their private property.

The entire island benefits from the reduction of pollution.

Those who cannot afford to participate in the ROEP program benefit from the reduced per KWH charge as a result of excess energy generation. Additionally, KIUC could divert some of its income to the purchase of their own generation equipment for integration into the ROEP program, eventually leading to lower per KWH charges for non-participants.

Participants can claim their equipment by paying an equipment removal fee, or, if a system like this spreads to other counties and states, might someday be able to virtually “transfer” their equipment to another company if they move.

We can have alternative energy on this island, and we can have it very, very quickly. It only remains for those in charge to think hard, come up with a creative solution to the problem, and then actually implement that solution. Failing that, it falls to the rest of us to vote in persons who will.

Chiem Ma


Visitors pay taxes

This is in response to Andy Melamed who seems to feel that visitors to the island do not pay their fair share of taxes (“Biting hard on the hand that feeds me,” Letters, Aug. 6).

Rather than debate this point, which in the end is a subjective call, I would like to share a data point around the amount of taxes generated by a particular two bedroom condo rental property in Po‘ipu. First off there is the annual property taxes of $5,662.08 plus transit accommodation taxes of $4,035 and General Excise taxes of $2,318. Additionally there are the additional General Excise taxes paid for car rentals, tours, food, etc. By contrast a three bedroom house with land in Lawa‘i has annual property taxes of $1,608. I would also like to point out that rising assessment values should not automatically mean a higher property tax bill. If an assessment doubles but the amount assessed per $1,000 of assessed value is divided by two, then the overall property tax remains the same and the revenue to the county also remains the same.

Alan Warwick

Bellevue, Wash.


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