SUBHEAD: Maybe its time to abandon KIUC for a more useful Cooperative Utility for the Island of Kauai.  

By Juan Wilson on 8 May 2012 for Island Breath -  

Image above: Detail of d graphic showing KIUC going down in flames near Port Allen, Kauai. Graphic by Juan Wilson. See below for whole image.  

Letting go of KIUC
 It is time people on Kauai came to together and realized that KIUC is not solving our expanding energy problems. Their corporate culture, equipment and debt has them (and us) on a treadmill that locks out broad stroked transformations. KIUC is not so much a cooperative than it is a dwindling group of hostages who are totally dependent on "The Grid".

A new model of energy generation is necessary. It is in part characterized by decentralization; do-it-yourself maintenance and operations. That includes self management of consumption and priorities. Given its current leadership and institutional inertia, there is little reason to be optimistic about reforming KIUC into a progressive organization.

Moreover, given KIUC's monumental debt and investment in outdated technology it may be impossible.

Some smell the Smoke
Had we let Kauai Electric go bankrupt a decade ago and accepted the inconvenience of some interrupted service we would not have saddled ourselves with an impossible debt. That inconvenience was postponed, but will reappear again at the end of KIUC's usefulness. That time may be at hand.

If you have not noticed, the military, corporations and other forward looking institutions are working to be less dependent on our Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC).

They are generating their own power using photo-voltaic panels. They are, to name a few: Costco (Kukui Grove); Fire Department Station (Kapaa); Kauai Community College (Puhi); Pacific Missile Range Facility (Makaha Ridge); Pioneer Seed, (Waimea).

We must now plot a better course to a decentralized cooperative that would operate solely on renewable energy sources. This is the reverse of KIUC, hence the name CUIK. In my response to the KIUC open letter to its members ( I wrote:
The KIUC plan to provide 50% alternative energy by 2023 is too little tool late. My prediction is that in the next few years it will become impossible for KIUC to finance large energy projects. Consequently KIUC will never reach generating 50% of what we use today with alternative sources. Here on Kauai it is likely that oil will become too precious for us too burn for power on demand 24/7/365 . That means that unless you have PV panels or a wind generator on your roof you'll have access to less than half the energy your using now. Maybe that is the secret of KIUC's program for demand destruction.
What I take away from that is we should expect much less service from KIUC for much more money on into the future. We are going to go through a painful transition even if we don't turn away from KIUC.

  Image above: Detail of d graphic showingCUIK merging from the wetlands of Puolo Point near Port Allen, Kauai. Graphic by Juan Wilson. See below for whole image.  

File under Pipe Dreams
Because we have lost so much time trying to hold onto the status quo that the transition will include brown-outs, black-outs and loss of service. This will be true whether we hang onto KIUC or abandon it for an alternative, like CUIK. Crucial changes needed for a positive transformation would be:
  • Finding the means to finance and construct solutions for generating electricity on a house-to-house basis.
  • Reducing the expectation on the amount and availability of the use of power in our daily lives.
  • Prioritizing what we need electrical power for - Night lighting, Refrigeration, Telecommunications? Power tools? Appliances? Entertainment?
  • Seeking alternative sources of drinking water because the Water Department requires KIUC to lift water from wells to most of its reservoirs.
We need to examine what level of collective action is best suited to our individual situations and the tasks at hand. In some cases a group of homes owned by a family might pool efforts to supply there own power.

In other cases it might be an apartment complex or nursing home. There will certainly need to be institutions that provide rotating funds to groups and individuals with plans for generating their own power. This might be through bank mortgage arrangements or other private means. There are opportunities for County government to play a role in this.

For that matter, as unlikely as it seems, even KIUC could define itself and have a hand at making itself superfluous. As it stands the centralized electric grid is a big part of our energy problem and KIUC is the centralized grid.

A self organizing new and shiny CUIK could be a decentralized replacement that agile enough to accommodate the future.

Image above: Background of Puolo Point area near Salt Pond beach. Photo and graphic by Juan Wilson. Click to enlarge.



Dharma Sanctuary said...

go CUIK!

Anonymous said...

I don't understand what's wrong with you people. I got the opportunity to work at KIUC over the summer; they're easily the most transparent company I've ever had the pleasure of joining. And if you REALLY feel that you're more qualified than they are to run a utility, knock yourself out. And when you can find a team of electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, certified diesel technicians, combustion-turbine certified technicians, troubleshooters, linemen,and then the entire clerical staff to back everything, you let me know. The people in charge are in charge for a reason. They have years upon years of experience in the utilities field; they not only know what it takes to run a successful business,but they've been managing quite well all this time. It seems you fail to appreciate that KIUC is a NON-PROFIT. I can't give you any hard numbers, but just know that they were 5% underbudget last year. This money was given back to members, including you and I. How well does the government manage budgeting? Yeah, I thought so. Clearly political types aren't the ones who should be in charge; let them do their politics and let the engineers with years of experience handle things down here.

Say what you will, it's evident KIUC is doing what they're supposed to be; providing power so you can turn on your computer to run your mouth online. And being able to move toward sustainable power, smarter grid solutions and remain environmentally-conscious makes them far better than you and this pitiful website will ever be.

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Anonymous,

Have you ever noticed how the ranters never give their names?

I am not hooked up to KIUC so I don't have to rely on their technicians and engineers to run my mouth off on my blog. Are you dependent on KIUC for electricity? That might explain a lot about what you wrote.

KIUC and the other electric utilities that hang on to the old centralised power distribution model will be blown away like dust in the wind.

Good luck keeping your Tesla charged up on Port Allen generating station. It's more likely that your Tesla or Prius will be charged off your roof during the day and power your house at night.

IB Editor

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