Letters for Saturday, June 23, 2012

• Need a ride to the airport? • Smart meter: If you don’t want one you won’t have one • Good news for us is bad news for KIUC

Need a ride to the airport?

Oh My, yet another letter bashing our Kaua‘i lifestyle, obviously the newbies weren’t here when cane fires were part of the plantation days.

So many move here to “Paradise” and immediately begin to try and turn our home into something that resembles where it was that they came from.

I am personally so outraged, that I would love to see a moratorium placed.

Instead of opting out from KIUC smart meters, just opt out altogether, leave the island and take your toys with you.

Then, we can take back the fake co-op from the fake county and lock the doors, so no others can come here destroying what remains.

If you need a ride to the airport, give me a call.

Debra Kekaualua, Wailua Homesteads

Smart meter: If you don’t want one you won’t have one

Scratch the surface of any “fact” presented by a smart meter opponent and you’ll usually find a recycled urban myth or an easily disproven untruth.

That’s the case with two recent letters.

The first relies on a quote from 1999 from an insurance underwriter explaining that Lloyd’s of London won’t insure cell phone providers because of health concerns.

For 13 years, that quote has bounced around the Internet, offered by bloggers and websites as proof that cell phones — and by extension smart meters and other wireless devices — are carcinogenic.

In fact, Lloyd’s does offer liability coverage to cell phone providers. A spokesman for Lloyd’s, Bart Nash, cautioned Canadian Underwriter magazine in 2010 that the 1999 quote was outdated and that “we’re not aware of this (restrictions or exclusions on cell phone companies) occurring now.”

A second writer confidently asserts, as several other letter-writers have, that states and nations have outlawed smart meters. It’s not true.

By the end of this year, more than 60 million smart meters will be in use across the U.S. A Pennsylvania law requires all utilities in the state to switch over to smart meters.

As for “bans” by some California cities and counties, they are symbolic, since the California Public Utilities Commission is the sole regulatory authority and has approved statewide installation of the meters, holding utilities to an aggressive schedule to modernize their electrical grids.

For Kaua‘i residents who still have concerns, KIUC’s policy is simple: If you don’t want a smart meter you don’t have to have one.

Jim Kelly, Communications manager, Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative

Good news for us is bad news for KIUC

The good news is that oil prices are falling. In the past couple of months crude oil prices have fallen more than 20 percent.

For the average (600 kilowatts an hour per month) customer that should translate to a monthly bill dropping from roughly $280 to about $250. That’s not a 20 percent decline because the cost of fuel represents only about half of your KIUC bill. The rest of the bill covers KIUC’s spending for all sorts of other “stuff.” Stuff like propaganda touting the benefits of the smart meters they have already purchased.

Their costly advertisements and glossy brochures include claims that, among other things, smart meters will result in “reduced dependency on foreign oil.” How the heck did they come up with that one?

Then there’s the free flow (pun intended) of KIUC member money to pay for hydro power consultants. This in spite of the fact that federal regulators have time and again rejected the actions suggested by these consultants.

Next, we have things, like a slick magazine, legal bills, statement stuffers, school calendars and more. You get the point.

Now this is how the decline in oil prices begins to bite at KIUC — cheaper fossil fuel will translate to lower revenue for KIUC; and less money coming in leaves less to spend.

I believe the vast majority of KIUC members are quite happy to see energy prices decline. Yet in previous comments about its financial performance, KIUC states, “The true culprits are the economic downturn and loss of revenue due to declining oil prices.”

What KIUC customers really want is reliable electric power at the lowest possible cost. Service reliability has improved since the not so good old days of Kaua‘i Electric, but KIUC — with the nation’s highest rates — has failed its owners (the co-op members) miserably when it comes to holding down electricity prices on Kaua’i.

It looks like our power company’s management is on a power trip.

Management wants to own and control their hydro-electric generating stations and solar farms. They could instead conserve capital and enter into cost-effective power purchase agreements at truly competitive prices. As to what they should be doing to benefit members, the answer is to stop burning Chevron’s sky-high priced diesel and naphtha ASAP.

There is no realistic way for Kaua‘i to get a majority of its electricity from other than fossil fuel powered generators. Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for renewable energy — I put my money where my mouth is by installing rooftop PV panels at my house. But the sun doesn’t shine 24/7, and at night my home is powered from the grid.

Right now, 90 percent of KIUC’s power is generated from fossil fuels. Maybe 7-10 years down the road we can get to a 30-40 percent renewable energy position. That still leaves us with 60-70 percent from fossil fuel.

But the fossil fuel of choice for Kaua‘i is clean-burning, dirt cheap natural gas. There is a glut of natural gas on the Mainland. Utilities are switching their coal-fired plants to “Nat gas” because it is so cheap and so much better for the environment.

Companies in the U.S. and Canada are investing billions of dollars to construct plants to liquefy it to LNG for cost-effective export.

KIUC’s generators at Kapaia and Port Allen can be converted to burn Nat Gas. KIUC should be using its capital for that purpose and not for the poorly conceived projects like the Anahola solar farm ( I plan on writing soon on that subject).

By teaming up with the Gas Company, Hawaiian Electric and state government, KIUC could save each customer hundreds of dollars a year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

An aggressive effort in that direction would show genuine concern for the interests of the KIUC membership.

Allan Rachap, Koloa


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