LIHUE — If elected to serve on the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative board of directors, KipuKai Kuali’i promises to find ways to strike harmony between producing energy and the issues that surround it.
“As we continue to lead the way in renewable energy production, we must also balance the resulting environmental, member and social concerns,” he said.
For example, KIUC is enhancing efforts to minimize death or injury to endangered birds, responded to complaints of the infrastructure’s close proximity to the highway and has addressed concerns regarding water diversion and water usage for hydro projects, Kuali’i said.
The 54-year-old is one of seven candidates running for three seats on the KIUC board of directors. Each term is three years.
The former Kauai County Councilman said he will use his experience to keep the co-op heading in the right direction.
“I’ll use my experience in administration, policy and advocacy to help lead KIUC’s work on its financial requirements, as well as addressing community priorities including our shared desire to protect our environment and move us off fossil fuels,” he said. “I’ll be a board member that helps keep KIUC moving forward, especially in managing the budget so we can bring greater savings to our members.”
Kuali’i led Anahola Hawaiian Homes Association with the Anahola Solar Farm and has served on the Anahola Solar Advisory Committee. He also is a regular attendee of KIUC, Department of Land and Natural Resources and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands meetings.
“It’s important for me to be part of the discussion because I bring the unique perspective of a Native Hawaiian and a Hawaiian homestead leader,” he said.
There are four other issues facing KIUC in coming years, Kuali’i said.
One is ensuring equitable rates.
“We need to continue working on ensuring one class of ratepayers are not having to subsidize others. KIUC is already working on restructuring rates to be more equitable with a Time-Of-Use pilot rate program that includes 300 members,” he said. “Its success will likely mean expanding this TOU rate program to all members.”
KIUC also needs to find innovative ways to better store solar energy, Kuali’i added.
“We need to continue increasing our battery storage capacity in order to have energy available at night when usage exceeds generation,” he said.
Two recent examples are the partnership between KIUC and Tesla-SolarCity to build a utility-scale solar plant in Lihue with battery energy storage during the day for release to the grid for use at night during peak-usage hours, and working to build a solar-battery project in the Koloa area, he said.
Expanding hydroelectric generation and working toward achieving the co-op’s renewable energy goals are also important, he added.
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 has a goal of 70 percent by 2030.
“Although these goals seem lofty to some, we have to be the environmental stewards our aina by striving for and marching toward 100 percent clean, renewable energy and completely eliminating the negative impacts of burning fossil fuels,” he said. “When considering reliability, affordability and battery storage capability, we have to look to renewable diversification and increasing hydroelectric, biomass and pumped storage.”
If elected to the board of directors, Kuali’i promises to push for sound fiscal management, engagement, education and involvement of members, and efforts to keep member rates down. He also said he will be a strong advocate for KIUC members by being accessible and seeking their input before making decisions.
“It takes many dedicated, capable and hard-working folks at KIUC to balance the interest of our members and our environment while harnessing clean, renewable energy to provide reliable power, lower electricity rates and move us off fossil fuels,” he said.