Serving on the board of the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, we tend to hear a lot from people who are convinced they could do a better job.
That’s the nature of a cooperative. Members elect nine directors to represent their interests, and on Kaua‘i, our members aren’t shy about sharing their opinions.
More than anything else, we hear from people who are frustrated by the size of their electric bills. So are we. That’s why we’re moving so aggressively to strengthen our grid and burn less oil. Some say we’re not moving fast enough, while others urge us to slow down.
Being criticized and second-guessed comes with the job.
But we’ve watched with increasing frustration as our actions and policies have been misrepresented and inaccurately reported. Even something as simple as our name — a recent story in The Garden Island referred to us as “Kaua‘i Community Island Cooperative” — gets tangled. Opinions disguised as facts are amplified, repeated and distorted in letters, on blogs, on the radio and in public meetings.
It’s no wonder people are confused about what we’re up to.
As a board, we want to set the record straight on a number of issues:
— We’ve done the research and we’re satisfied that smart meters are safe and don’t represent a threat to health or privacy. Each of us is comfortable putting them on our houses and the houses of our children and grandchildren and loved ones. But we are responding to the concerns of members who are unsure about smart meters by allowing them to put off installation – we aren’t going to force anyone to have a smart meter who doesn’t want one.
— We know high utility bills are a burden on Kaua‘i businesses and families. That’s why we’re moving steadily toward our goal of providing 50 percent of our electricity through renewable resources by 2023.
— We’re making significant progress on a blueprint for hydroelectric generation using Kaua‘i’s abundant water resources while safeguarding cultural traditions and the environment, leaving ample capacity for agriculture. We have been working with state agencies and plan to continue to develop our projects under a state permitting process. We’ll be sharing these plans in detail later this year after their review by our state agencies, and there will be numerous opportunities for us to talk with you about them.
— We’re committed to transparency; no one is hiding anything. We just posted our 2011 financials on our website, and you can also see past financials, our monthly reports to the state Public Utilities Commission and our annual IRS Form 990s.
— We’re responsible stewards of your money. Since 2002, KIUC has returned more than $26 million in patronage capital and other refunds to our members. That money isn’t shipped off to shareholders, it stays right here on Kaua‘i.
We’re also proud of our work developing two large, KIUC-owned photovoltaic projects. These projects will produce around 20 megawatts of electricity at a cost much lower than burning oil. On a sunny day, when the systems are fully producing, they will provide enough energy to supply almost 40 percent of our island’s demand. Because of the lengthy environmental assessment processes, these projects will likely not start construction until 2013.
We also have several power purchase agreements that have been approved by the state Public Utilities Commission. Among them is the 6-megawatt photovoltaic project Alexander & Baldwin is building next to our Port Allen power plant. And Green Energy is making considerable progress on obtaining financing for a 6.7-megawatt biomass plant in Koloa near Knudsen Gap.
Together, these projects represent huge potential savings on your electric bill.
As we celebrate our 10th year as a cooperative in 2012, we’re committed to providing reliable energy at the lowest possible cost. We’re committed to developing renewable energy that makes economic sense and meets the community’s expectations.
And we’re committed to being good neighbors who listen and who act not in self-interest, but for the good of Kaua‘i.
We represent you, so please read Currents, check out our website and sign up for our emails. Talk to us. But don’t just take our word for how we’re doing. Get as many facts as you can about renewable energy, our nation’s aging power grid and how our performance compares to other utility co- ops. There’s a lot of information out there.
Just don’t expect to get the whole story from bumper stickers, YouTube videos and letters to the editor.
Teofilo “Phil” Tacbian, chair
Carol Bain, Karen Baldwin, Pat Gegen, David Iha,
Calvin Murashige, Allan Smith, Jan TenBruggencate, Peter Yukimura
Board of directors, Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative