KIUC board to consider smart meter opt-out plan

KAPA‘A — The Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative board is considering an opt-out program for members who do not want smart meters installed on their property, but meanwhile will defer installation upon request, KIUC CEO David Bissell said Tuesday.

“The board is saying we’ll allow the members a choice,” Bissell said at a board meeting held at Courtyard by Marriott at Coconut Beach in Kapa‘a. “We won’t force smart meters to go on to any house or business at this time.”

The board sometimes meets away from its office in Lihu‘e as part of its community outreach strategy.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, a handful of protesters lined the street outside the Kapa‘a meeting place, holding up picket signs to protest smart meters, citing health fears and/or privacy concerns.

Co-op member Marge Dente, one of a dozen co-op members to testify at the meeting, told the KIUC board that members should not be charged a fee if they do not want a smart meter installed.

Bissell said the co-op must determine how many members wish to defer the installation of smart meters to determine the cost structure of the fee KIUC would charge those who wish to opt out.  

“There’s a huge difference whether it’s 10 members or it’s 100 members or it’s 1,000 members on what those costs are going to be,” he said.

Then the amount of the proposed fee must be submitted to the Public Utilities Commission for approval. If the PUC approves the fee, then it will offer an opt-out alternative at the approved rate.

Until then, those who do not wish to have a smart meter can have it “indefinitely deferred,” he said.  

“Most if not all the utilities I’m aware of the Mainland are going a similar route,” Bissell said.

Nataan Kauakahi, a resident of Lihu‘e Gardens development, where KIUC recently installed smart meters with the property owners approval for its new solar device, said he did not have a choice because “the decision was made by my landlord.”

A member who arrived with Kauakahi said there have been reports of fires related to smart meters on the Mainland. Bissell called the reports “an urban myth.”

Co-op member Ken Taylor expressed concerns about a new rate structure following the smart meter rollout.

Bissell said there are no plans for that.

The smart meter rollout will begin in May, according to the co-op.

Members who would like to be placed on the deferred installation list can call KIUC at 246-4300 to obtain a Deferred Installation Request Form.

• Vanessa Van Voorhis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 251, or by emailing vvanvoorhis@thegardenisland.com.

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