LIHUE — Jim Mayfield wants to switch Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s focus to pursuing an expansion of utility services, namely telecommunications and Wi-Fi.
“Everybody is into renewable energy, but KIUC is well on its way to achieving its goals for renewable energy,” he said.
Earlier this month, the co-op announced that it will reach 50 percent of power generated through renewable energy sources by next year, and has a goal of 70 percent by 2030. It hopes to be run by 100 percent of renewable energy by 2045.
“The board’s committed to it, management is committed to it and I’m not worried about it — it’s already in the process,” Mayfield said.
If elected, Mayfield, who is one of the founders of KIUC, wants to start looking for ways to obtain Wi-Fi and package it with KIUC’s services.
“We need to utilize the assets KIUC already has in place and utilizing the assets on the island we can work with to provide telecommunication to our residents,” the 63-year-old said.
Initially, Wi-Fi will be offered to businesses. If all goes well, it will be offered to residents, Mayfield added.
But he concedes the road to offering Wi-Fi on Kauai will be a long one.
“Utilities don’t move quickly. So if we go into telecommunications, it’s not like if we say today we’re going to do it, flip a switch and tomorrow, we have it,” he said. “This is turning a battleship. So only if we start it now, might we be able to provide the service five years from now.”
In choosing the name Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Mayfield said he intentionally used “utility” instead of “electrical.”
“My goal for KIUC was it was never going to just be an electrical co-op. The idea was that we needed to get electric working smoothly. Now I want us to look at taking other things on,” he said.
The Lihue resident said another issue facing KIUC is making sure the island has the batteries to store power before solar panels, electric cars and other renewable energy commodities become popular on the Garden Isle.
“We need to start planning now so when the battery prices come down to where people can buy them themselves, we have a plan already in place to organize and supervise to make sure it’s done correctly,” he said.
Mayfield, owner of Island Business and Commercial Brokerage, said the co-op has a unique business model.
“Our responsibility isn’t to sell electricity,” he said. “We can really say ‘what is the best for our members?’ Yes, we need to make enough money to pay our bills, but we don’t have to make our decisions based on what’s best for KIUC. We make our decisions based on what’s best for our members.”
Mayfield, who took a break from the KIUC board eight years ago, said he wanted to run again because he has the time to dedicate himself fully to it.
“KIUC was the biggest community contribution in my life,” he said.
He believes he stands out from some of the other candidates because he doesn’t have dreams to become a politician.
“Almost all the candidates, excluding the existing members, have run for election, typically for the Kauai County Council. They run for those and don’t get elected, so they run for KIUC,” he said. “My commitment is to KIUC.”