Former legislator says knowledge in energy policy, regulation will benefit cooperative

LIHUE — If elected to serve on the board of directors of the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Hermina Morita promises to use her experience in policy making to ensure the co-op thrives.

“My background and expertise is in energy policy and regulation, a much broader scope than just renewable and other sources of energy,” she said.

As a politician and regulator for more than 19 years, Morita has held leadership roles in energy policy development and utility regulation. She plans to use that experience to work with all stakeholders — from board members to ratepayers.

“I want to use this experience to work collaboratively with the other board members and our community to strategically shape our cooperative to not only provide excellent electricity service and value for our Kauai community, but for KIUC to be recognized nationwide as a model utility of the future,” she said.

She served as a state representative for 15 years. During her time in the Legislature, Morita was chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, where she introduced the Renewable Portfolio Standard, a policy that requires electric companies to establish percentage goals for renewable energy sales.

One of the standards sets a 100 percent renewable energy goal for 2045, a goal KIUC is well on its way to achieving.

KIUC wants 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 it will reach 50 percent by next year, and have set a new goal of 70 percent by 2030.

In addition to chairing the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, Morita also led the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission which regulates Hawaii’s electric utilities for four years.

“I had to learn and understand all parts of the electric utility business from financing, engineering to operations,” she said.

If elected, Morita, who ran for the KIUC board in 2016, wants to focus on keeping rates affordable, look for ways to increase productivity and efficiency, invest wisely and expand the co-op.

“As the co-op delves into modernizing the electric system, the community needs to understand the technical and economic challenges to do so,” she said. “For me, another main issue is how to educate and engage co-op members to understand these challenges.”

The Hanalei resident also plans to push for educational programs and organizational transparency.

“My primary objective is to advocate for accessibility, fairness and opportunity for all members to benefit from clean energy policies and programs to manage their electricity bills,” she said.

Since retiring from public service, the 62-year-old consults on energy issues and writes a blog called Energy Dynamics, which shares information for people to understand the dynamics of Hawaii’s clean energy transformation.

Last year, she co-authored a book with Sam Pintz called “Clean Energy from the Earth, Wind and Sun: Learning from Hawaii’s Search for a Renewable Energy Strategy,” which discusses Hawaii’s history in looking for other energy sources. Morita hopes to expand KIUC’s focus on more than attaining the renewable energy goal.

“Kauai’s energy future is more than renewable and other sources of energy. It’s about the transformation of an entire electricity system including a changing electric utility business model,” she said. “I think it would be important for me to be part of the discussion to bring experience, gender and geographic diversity to the board.”

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