LIHUE — One of the reasons why Juno-Ann Apalla wants to be on the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative board is so she can help Kauai residents understand what’s going on within the organization.
“I saw a disconnect between the normal people outside the company and somewhat of a dissatisfaction,” she said. “They wanted to know more about what was going on.”
Apalla, 28, was inspired to run for the KIUC board of directors in 2014 after she started attending the public meetings.
At that time, the board was in the middle of conversations about ways to protect the rate payers and getting the island to 100 percent renewable energy.
“Those were all internal conversations I wanted to be a part of,” she said.
But the Lihue resident’s plans were put on hold when she decided to run for a seat on the County Council in 2016.
While she didn’t get elected to the council, Apalla said her experience on the campaign trail gave her the courage to run for a position on the KIUC board of directors.
She is one of seven candidates running for three seats. There are nine people on the governing board and each term is three years.
For Apalla, what is attractive about the board of directors is that everyone works together for a common goal.
“A large portion of it is goal-oriented and team-oriented,” she said. “I like working in collaborative settings and I will dedicate myself fully to it.”
One of KIUC’s goals is to have 50 percent of Kauai’s power be generated by renewable energy by 2023 and 100 percent by 2045.
Earlier this month, the co-op said the island will reach 50 percent by next year, and have set a new goal of 70 percent by 2030.
If elected to the board, Apalla said she will dedicate herself to working to that goal by supporting KIUC initiatives like hydroelectric, solar, biomass, pumped storage, rooftop solar and battery storage.
“That’s within my own lifetime,” she said. “The challenge is getting there since we are in a place where we have much more limited resources than other states. My goal is to explore what all the possibilities are and all the other sources we can tap into.”
Of all the KIUC initiatives, Apalla said the most important one is reducing the island’s dependence on fossil fuels.
Apalla, who is pursuing an executive master’s degree in business from the University of Hawaii, also supports transparency within the co-op.
“If I become a member of the board, I’d like to be part of the policy committee. Transparency and open communication starts with policy to guide the direction of how we communicate to our members,” she said.
Apalla said she also will work to make sure cost operations are low and will try to find more ways to store solar energy.
“We harness solar, but we don’t have the infrastructure to store it,” she said.
Apalla cited KIUC’s partnerships with SolarCity, to build a storage system to supply power during night-time hours, and with Nissan, to offer a $10,000 rebate to residents who purchase a new 2016 or 2017 Leaf, a battery-powered car.
“There needs to be incentives for people who want to drive electric cars,” she said. “People can charge at 19 locations on the island, and that’s an incredible thing. You can drive all the way from Lihue to Hanalei and not run on fossil fuels.”
Ballots, which were mailed to Kauai residents at the end of February, must be turned in by March 18.