LIHUE — For Dee Crowell, running for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative board of directors is a calling.
“Public service is something that’s in my blood,” he said.
His father was a Kauai police officer and his mother was a teacher at Waimea High School.
Crowell is one of seven candidates seeking three seats on the KIUC board of directors.
The incumbent previously served from 2003 to 2009 and was appointed to the board in 2016 following the death of Carol Bain.
Crowell worked for the County of Kauai for 14 years, serving as the deputy planning director from 2005 to 2015 and the planning director from 1993 to 2003.
“When I was with the county, and later as a KIUC board member, I reviewed many renewable energy projects. In those days, renewable energy project developers looked at KIUC’s rates and saw money to be made. But after a few questions, most of those guys never came back,” he said. “I just want to make sure that those questions are asked, and the right answers are provided.”
“I know the infrastructure challenges facing Kauai, and know how to approach them,” he said. “The view of the board has to be multi-generations down the road; not just the next election.”
Issues facing the co-op this year are energy independence and keeping rates low, the 63-year-old said.
“Energy independence has to be achieved with fiscal responsibility,” he said. “Not just in controlling costs, but because renewable energy projects can cost tens of millions of dollars; smart financing of these projects is crucial.”
Another concern, Crowell said, is ensuring KIUC employees are safe while on the job.
“Employee safety is always a high priority. Electricity can be dangerous, at the utility level it can be lethal,” he said.
The Eleele resident said he has a couple proposals to present to the KIUC board.
“I want to work with the rest of the board to prioritize and implement those ideas,” he said.
If elected, Crowell said he will push for initiatives to increase the public’s understanding of how renewable energy is generated. He also wants to explore new energy saving technology and find ways to adapt to an ever-changing world.
“KIUC commissioned a renewable energy study about 10 years ago. It was a survey of various technologies that could provide renewable power generation,” he said. “Things have changed in 10 years. We should do a new study so we all can have a snapshot of what’s available and what makes sense, going forward.”
The co-op is heading in the right direction, Crowell said.
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 set a goal of 70 percent by 2030.
“KIUC is in a good place right now. We will reach the 50 percent renewable power generation later this year as new projects come on line,” he said.
While being a board member comes with mixed emotions, Crowell said he’s up to the task.
“Working with the board and staff has been hard work, but rewarding,” he said. “It’s also a big responsibility. Sometimes unpopular decisions have to be made. It’s a never-ending journey. I would like to continue to be a part of that journey.”