We need to stay involved

Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative has never engaged its members to the extent it has recently. Unfortunately, misconceptions and misinformation from both sides has convoluted the dialogue.

It has been exciting and frustrating for those who have been actively involved in trying to understand what’s going on.

Our co-op still has some learning to do regarding how to become a more open and democratic entity, which will be very important as they move forward on hydropower — either with or without the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process.

Irregardless of the outcome of the member vote, I hope that the level of engagement from both the Board of Directors and the membership remains high.

For hydropower or any other alternative energy generation method to be a viable, co-op members need to have their concerns heard and addressed by the Board better than they have in the past month. 

The Board has held the required general meeting and has followed through on the voting process, as required through the petition process, but has done so per bylaw requirements rather than in the spirit of education and member engagement. It’s a lost opportunity. 

Community-led meetings organized by neighborhood and special interest groups have been much more effective at embracing a democratic dialogue, which is what KIUC should have been striving for in their meetings on behalf of its members. The Board needs to build trust within its membership so that members will feel as though they are truly being represented. 

CEO David Bissell has said that KIUC will continue to engage the community. Hopefully, this will be done in the spirit of cooperation and not just as a means of checking a box to indicate the requirement was satisfied.

Members’ input and participation needs to stay at a high level as we move forward.  A concern that could soon be put in front of us is the potential for the co-op to revisit the need for an additional combustion generator. 

Our electrical demand has begun to increase over the past months. If some of the proposed alternative energy generation projects do not come on line in a timely fashion, KIUC could feel the need to follow through on their already-approved work plan, which includes $69 million of your money for the Gen-X combustion generator. This is not something we should let happen.

We all need to take a serious look at our electrical usage to determine where we can make changes. KIUC has some programs that can assist in helping us reduce our demand, but they can do more. 

The board approved a motion for staff to look into a consumer-based information system to help its members understand their electrical usage called O-Power. Where is it? 

KIUC has received funds to install “Smart Meters” on every home. The meters provide real-time usage information and would allow KIUC to reduce peak demand through an innovative pricing structure. When do we get these new meters and the interface to educate ourselves more? 

Imagine how far along we could be on these initiatives if KIUC devoted the same amount of time and resources toward lowering consumer electrical demand as they have toward defending the Board’s decision regarding hydropower. We would all be saving money rather than paying for a public relations campaign.

While hydropower, wind power and other alternatives may someday lower our per-kilowatt charge, that is not enough. We need to look to the future and take control where we can. On the Garden Island and throughout the world, we will not be able to sustain the energy usage to which have become accustomed. Our earth is changing. We will need to adjust accordingly to survive and prosper. 

KIUC needs to change and adapt, if they are to be an effective institution as we go forward. A different business model is desperately needed to align the community’s needs with the services KIUC could provide. As members, we need to help our co-op embrace a future that can benefit all of us lucky enough to call Kaua‘i home. We need to stay involved.

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