‘Smart’ switch

LIHUE — The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative announced that after Sept. 30, it will charge a fee for those who already have a smart meter installed but want it replaced with a “non-standard” meter.

“The board (of directors) unanimously voted to seek a tariff change that will allow KIUC to charge customers a one-time service fee for switching to a non-standard electric meter,” KIUC states in a press release Wednesday.

For now, it is still free to go back to the old system.

“If they ask for the switch before Sept. 30 there will be no charge,” KIUC communications manager Jim Kelly said.

After that, the switch back will cost $81 for a residential meter, while a commercial bi-directional meter will cost $290. But Kelly said this fee shouldn’t affect many people.

In May 2012, KIUC began installing 30,000 smart meters, according to KIUC. Installations will be finished in September, Kelly said.

“Those who didn’t want a meter didn’t get one,” he said.

About 2,700 customers so far have declined a smart meter, choosing rather to keep their old meter.

Prior to rolling out the smart meter program, KIUC faced staunch opposition from some who had concerns that exposure to radio frequency radiation and electromagnetic field from smart meters could be associated with cancer and neurological disorders, and many other health problems.

There were also privacy concerns regarding the smart meters’ ability to collect information from a home or business.

KIUC CEO and President David Bissell said in the release that customers still have a choice to go back to the old system, but the cost of such choice will be on the customer who is requesting the change, rather than having the entire membership cover the cost of the meter and the technician’s time.

The new charge would not apply to the customers who have already declined installation of a smart meter and are keeping their old meter, or to customers who request to go back before Sept. 30, according to KIUC.

The co-op’s board is still considering whether to charge an additional fee to those who declined a smart meter, in order to cover the cost of having their meter read manually every month.

In other action, the KIUC board unanimously approved Tuesday the financing arrangement for the co-op’s utility-scale solar project to be built on land leased from Grove Farm in Koloa.

The 12 megawatt project, known as KIUC Renewable Solutions Two, will cost $40 million and will be Hawaii’s largest solar array when completed in 2014, according to a KIUC press release.

Construction is scheduled to begin within the next two months.

KRS2 is a subsidiary of KIUC that qualifies for state and federal tax benefits for investors. Conventional financing will be provided by the National Cooperative Services Corporation. KIUC will be seeking PUC approval for funding to be provided by a tax equity investor.

KIUC estimates that KRS2 will generate power at 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour, less than half the present cost of oil-fired generation.

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