LIHUE — The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative will receive a loan of more than $60 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build and upgrade more than 70 miles of powerlines and support smart grid and other projects.
“This funding is critically important to providing clean and reliable energy at reasonable rates for our member-owners on Kauai,” said David Bissell, president and chief executive officer. “We appreciate the continued support of our congressional delegation as we head down the path toward 100 percent renewable generation.”
KIUC said that having access to USDA Rural Utilities Service funds at favorable interest rates is a huge benefit for KIUC and its member-owners.
“Low-cost funding for our system enhancements helps keep our rates as low as possible,” according to a statement from KIUC. “Electric utilities are very capital-intensive, and we have been able to continue to upgrade our electrical grid without a base rate increase since 2010. We are pleased that we will not be filing with the PUC for a rate increase in 2017.”
The money will fund capital improvement projects that will be ongoing for the next two to three years. Some of the projects are:
w Relocating the Kapaa baseyard to a higher elevation in Anahola as a climate mitigation measure;
w Upgrading and replacing battery systems at Koloa and Port Allen solar facilities, to enhance reliability;
w Upgrading the SCADA system (this is the computer system which operators and engineers use to monitor power plants and electrical grid), which facilitates improved grid control;
w Grid hardening by selectively replacing and undergrounding lines, transformers and poles throughout the island, as well as completing improvements to various substations;
w Improving generation facilities at Port Allen and Kapaia, as well as new equipment for the Lower Waiahi hydro plant;
w IT upgrades to improve operability and functionality of the smart grid system;
Hawaii’s legislative leaders praised the move.
“KIUC is on track to be 50 percent renewable by 2023, and this funding will help them reach that goal,” said U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. “This loan will help KIUC continue the work it’s already doing to improve resiliency, stay energy-independent and keep Kauai clean and green.”
“Today’s award recognizes Hawaii’s continued leadership in renewable energy,” said U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii. “This competitive funding will allow Kauai Island Utility Cooperative to invest in needed infrastructure upgrades and technologies that will improve Kauai’s power grid and help our state reach its 100 percent renewable electricity goal.”
“KIUC is driving Hawaii forward toward our 100 percent renewable energy goal, already generating more than 40 percent of Kauai’s total electricity from renewable sources,” said U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-rural Oahu, Neighbor Islands. “This loan provides funds that will further this progress by investing in smart grid technology, building new lines and improving existing lines, and helping the Garden Isle better manage and optimize its power grid,” she said.
These loans are being awarded through the USDA Rural Development’s Electric Program, which helps finance electric projects and utilities that serve customers in rural areas through direct loans, grants and loan guarantees.
“Our member-owned utility cooperative is already generating 42 percent of its power from renewable sources, and is on track to achieve 70 percent by 2030,” said Kauai Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr. “They continue to set and achieve very ambitious goals, and this additional funding will further allow KIUC and our residents to be responsible stewards of our environment and preserve our resources for future generations.”
KIUC serves 33,000 electric accounts.