KIUC leading Hawaii

SUBHEAD: Kauai Island Utility Company is blazing ahead of rest of state on renewable energy contribution.

By Sophie Cocke on 12 October 2012 for Civil Beat - 

Image above: KIUC Port Allen power generating station sits makai of Alexander & Baldwin solar farm. All photos by Juan Wilson.

Kauai’s small, member-owned electric utility is quickly becoming a leader when it comes to renewable energy.

By the end of 2014, the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative expects to be generating 35 percent of its energy from sources such as solar, biomass and hydroelectric. That's quite a switch from 2008, when it was generating more than 90 percent of its energy from imported oil, according to a report filed with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Not only will its 33,000 customers benefit from more stable electricity rates, the utility says, but electricity costs are expected to be less than that from oil-fired generation. Currently, island residents are paying more than three times the national average and some of the highest rates in the state. A typical residential bill averages about $200 a month, according to utility data.

This week, the utility announced that a $90 million biomass plant designed to burn woodchips was set to break ground in early 2013. Green Energy Team, based in Anahola, just received a $73 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture which will allow the plant near Koloa to move forward.

The plant is expected to account for about 11 percent of the island’s electricity needs. Residents can expect to save between $70 to $190 a year on their electric bill because of the project, which will offset 3.7 million gallons of imported oil, according to state regulatory filings.

Image above: Hoku Solar constructing solar power array stretching from Port Allen to Eleele. All photos by Juan Wilson.

“Things have suddenly, surprisingly started coming together on a number of fronts in recent weeks,” Jim Kelly, a KIUC spokesman, said in an email. “The Green Energy project was close to dead many times in the past few years because of financing issues but the developer hung in and voila, it’s a go.”

The biomass plant will be located in the same area where Green Energy Team will be harvesting trees to use as feedstock, eliminating the need to truck in the woodchips.

The company is targeting invasive albizia trees that are on the 64-acre lot. In their place, the company plans to plant a range of trees. By cutting them in a special way, the trees will regrow faster, shortening the harvesting time to four and a half years, according to Eric Knutzen, co-founder of Green Energy.

In addition to the biomass plant, the utility is moving forward on large-scale solar projects. An array owned by Alexander & Baldwin Solar is expected to be online by the end of this year. Another project being developed by REC Solar in Anahola on homestead lands is expected to be completed by the end of 2014, and the electric utility is expected to announce another utility-scale project in the coming weeks.

Combined, the solar projects are anticipated to account for nearly 50 percent of energy use during the daytime.

"They are definitely leading the pack," said Drew Bradley, a sales manager at REC Solar. "It would be nice to see other utilities following along and getting on board."

For more of this article visit Civil Beat ( 

Image above: New PV solar panels in front of Chevron Port Allen fuel depot and KIUC diesel generator exhaust stacks. All photos by Juan Wilson.



jonathan jay said...

"They are definitely leading the pack," said Drew Bradley,

Yeah, KIUC leading the pack - what are we really talking about here?? - leading the pack of sleeping dogs. KIUC the tallest, towering over all of the energy dwarves. KIUC standing tall on an energy mole-hill Oh, brother... so damned with faint praise.

Anonymous said...

This article was definitely bloated at one end. The one we saw here.
Behind the spin and the ʻbig array of solar panelsʻ showing off what they think the people want to hear is the other stuff:
Fleecing their customers to pay for consultants and already obsolete infrastructure proposals.
Massive hydro-damming with no regard for environment or Hawaiian resources/land.
Huge obnoxious salaries for mediocre thinkers and yes men.
Forced Grids that leave us vulnerable to a myriad of attacks...terrorist, 1st & 4th amendment and on customersʻ pocketbooks.
Soon the customers that hang on with KIUC will be footing the entire cost of their ʻnewʻ (but really old) experiments because everyone else will have left their system.

The author of this article, who I think does a good job on most reporting, was mislead on this one.

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment. If you know our editorial history with KIUC you know we have generally characterized the cooperative as anything but forward looking.

This project demonstrates how timid they are. This is a situation where A&B will sell KIUC power at 28¢ an kwh for twenty years. Had KIUC had the cajones they would have developed their own system, and turned the resulting savings to its memebers.

In any case, we are glad to see KIUC moving towards using more solar pv. That certainly is better than what the members of HEI are doing.

Now we have to move KIUC towards a more decentralized and resilient (and user owned) model of power generation.

IB Publisher

Anonymous said...

Hi Juan,
That was me, elaine. I canʻt expect Sophie Cocke to know all the unethical tricks KIUC has managed to pull on us but the article is glossing KIUC and I donʻt for one second think this is their intended direction. And of course this is what they wanted to portray. Thereʻs more in the works behind the scenes and when itʻs quiet like this it makes me nervous.
Just another PR stunt which BTW they spend more time on than anything.

Mauibrad said...

Kauai is not leading the pack. Maui with their 3 wind farms now is way out ahead of Kauai. If Maui stops and does nothing more than the 3 wind farms, Kauai would not catch up until 2014. The real truth of the matter is that only one of the main Hawaiian islands isn't making barely any progress, and that is Oahu.

Mauibrad said...

KIUC has been finally making progress in 2011 and 2012, but Sophie of Civil Beat is gushing just a little too much. Also, here are the most recent monthly changes in utility rates:

Oahu to 33.6 cents per kWh from 33.5 cents,
Maui 36.10 <- 34.9,
Hawaii isle 40.4 <- 40.7,
Kauai 44.9 <- 43.1

Kauai is still the most expensive of those 4, and only 4 cents below it's all time high, and outrageously high priced by standards anywhere in the U.S. Just wait until Obama's renewed war in the Middle East, Kauai electric rates will shoot up above the 49 cents per kWh record this year.

Anonymous said...

What about PMRF and when they are independent?
Doesnʻt seem fair that they can be out there on a stolen beach and set up their own private world.
Of course, did the PUC see this coming? They must have. These things donʻt happen overnight.
So then the rest of the island has a bigger chunk to pay?

Post a Comment