KIUC Strategic Plan Update

SUBHEAD: The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative is seeking input for its Strategic Plan Draft.

By Juan Wilson on 7 May 2013 for Island Breath -

CORRECTION: This from KIUC Jim Kelly, Communications Manager for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative: "KIUC is paying A&B 20 cents for power from the Port Allen array, not 28 cents as originally stated in this article."

Image above: 1964 VW bus parked at sunset at Kee Beach in 1971. Drawn by Juan Wilson on Commodore 64 in 1985. Specs were 320 by 200 pixels with 16 colors (hardly lots of improper edge conditions).

KIUC has always known that any significant adoption of residential and small-business rooftop PV systems hooked to the grid would be a problem. That's why there was a limit set to the amount of private systems hooked to the grid (co-generating).

The problem for KIUC comes from big, quick fluctuations of power generation (and its usage) that occurs on the grid as clouds, weather and time of day play  havoc with keeping the grid steady and reliable. And it has to be that to operate as a grid.

KIUC Risk Aversion
It would not be such a problem if people had not been so quick in putting panels on their homes. But who could blame them. KIUC customers watched as the "co-op" dragged their feet for years on embracing solar PV. KIUC waited for others to take the risk.

Even the recently completed Port Allen large PV-array was an Alexander & Baldwin project. KIUC signed a 20 year contract for a pricey 20¢ per KWH. No risk to KIUC- just guaranteed cost to KIUC members and profit for A&B.

Finally, KIUC is seeing that solar-PV is a major part of their future - but it needs to be centralized.

The KIUC Strategic Plan Update says in part:
Among the unanticipated changes since the strategic plan was last revised in December 2009 is the boom in commercial and residential photovoltaic installations. Once only an option for the wealthy, generous state and federal tax incentivesand plummeting material costs have made PV more affordable.
By the end of 2012, more than 1,200 PV systems had been installed on Kauai, generating nearly 7 megawatts. In 2013, an additional 9 megawatts are expected to come on line.
These PV systems only generate during a few hours of the day, contributing little or nothing to the grid the rest of the time. The management of this intermittent resource requires engineering expertise and a robust grid, the cost of which is substantial.

This rapid expansion of PV is not only eroding KIUC’s ability to recover fixed costs, but has the potential to exceed load demand, forcing KIUC to consider actions including curtailment, essentially shutting off PV-generated electricity before it comes into the grid.
PV KIUC doesn't want
What this tells us is that KIUC perceives distributed self-reliant PV residential systems as a as an unwanted cost to members who don't invest in their own systems. It means that residential PV systems hooked to the grid are actually a threat to KIUC.

And that means that the co-generation plan that many home PV-systems have employed has reached a dead-end, and that the cost of a go-gen hookup in the future would better spent on a home storage (battery) system.

The goal of reaching 50% electric power generation (at today's rate of consumption) from renewable sources by 2023 is unlikely to ever happen. There are too many financial black swans in the air.

Future Scenario
In my opinion, before 2023 we will pass through a series of financial convulsions that will make it to difficult to reach such a goal. Climate change, more expensive fossil fuel extraction, and resource depletion of rare elements will cause us to experience world-wide de-growth and de-industrialization.

The government subsidies and corporate competition that have lowered solar-PV panels to where they are today have reached their peak. Note the Chinese panel maker Suntech declared bankruptcy after fierce competition with rivals. It was the world’s largest solar-panel manufacturer by volume.

I believe that whatever alternative energy sources KIUC has in place in the next 5 years will all it ever has. Moreover, I suspect they will be using significantly less of the diesel fuel that now supplies about 80% of Kauai's power.

That means they may reach providing 50% of their power from renewable sources - BUT they will be providing only a fraction of the power they supply today... and that power will not be 24/7/365.

Much of the world lives like that now - with rolling brown-outs and black-outs - even scheduled neighborhood shutdowns.

The US Federal and Hawaii state tax breaks for solar PV have been generous (about a third off cost). These programs are going to wind down in the next few years. Moreover:
  • Cost of solar systems will likely be rising
  • Another financial crisis in Europe and USA is brewing
  • China is slowing down and relying less on exports
  • Climate change is kicking in to impoverish us
What ever energy alternatives you have installed in the next year or two might be all you ever have. If you cannot afford to begin that process now you may not get a chance. What ever you do get done will make a big difference in your life, no matter how small a project it is. That may be as small as having a reading light and radio at night, or just a way to charge your laptop and phone.

I know. I lived on Kauai in 1971-72 in a VW bus. At night I had only the dim dome light to read by and AM radio to listen to at night. Even that made all the difference in the world.

By Staff on 6 May 2013 for KIUC -

The board of directors of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) is seeking members' comments and ideas for the cooperative's updated strategic plan for 2013 through 2025.

The board and senior staff of KIUC recently completed a draft of the plan, which updates the document that was adopted by the board at the end of 2009.

Strategic Plan Update link:


The latest draft reflects KIUC's progress in reaching its goal of using renewable energy to generate 50 percent of electricity by 2023.

The draft also emphasizes the importance of reducing members' costs while increasing their satisfaction.

And it contains new language that describes the challenge of integrating residential photovoltaic systems safely and efficiently into the existing utility grid. The last time the strategic plan was updated, there were fewer than 300 PV systems on Kauai; today, there are more than 1,200.

KIUC board members will hold three simultaneous public briefings on the plan on May 30 at 6:30 p.m. so members can ask questions and offer feedback.

The meetings will be held at:
  • Waimea Theatre,
  • KIUC Office, 4463 Pahee Street, LÄ«hue
  • Princeville Community Center
The draft of the strategic plan is posted at and will be included in the May issue of Currents, which members should begin receiving this week.

Members can also email comments and suggestions on the strategic plan to

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Transition from the Grid 5/3/13



Anonymous said...

Well boo hoo too for KIUC and their shortsightedness by not including photovoltaic opportunities from the beginning in their non=strategic planning. I lived on Kauai for many years completely off the grid with photovoltaic panels which included my own battery backup system, inverter, charge controller and all the other goodies of power independence from Kauai Electric and then KIUC.

As far as I am concerned, they can fall into bankruptcy. I never paid them a thin dime and never had any need for their services. They don't deserve to survive, especially considering their latest boondoggle forcing those questionable smart meters on their customers who should not to be confused as members since KIUC is not a true coop as it does not abide by the principles of cooperatives..

Gelfling said...

LOVE the pic! =) Also the article, of course.

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha Gelfling,

The computer I had then was the SX-64. It was their all-in-one luggable with a carrying handle. It had a 5" color screen with 320x200 pixel resolution that displayed 16 native colors.

It was quite a challenge "painting" with the limited pallet and the fringing noise that was generated along abutted color edges.

The drawing was done on a Koala BitPad with a stylus. The printing was done with a Okimate "wax" transfer printer.

Images output from this configuration went onto 80# polished paper.

All in all, thirty years later the prints have been quite stable. More so than all the inkjets an laser printers I've had since.


Carol Bain said...

Aloha Juan,
I appreciate you promoting the outreach for KIUC's Strategic Plan update. The feedback from the last election was that members wanted more opportunity to provide input to the cooperative utility. If KIUC members read the plan and want to improve it, let's hear it. I would like to listen to good ideas for energy conservation, efficiency and more ways to reduce dependency on fossil fuel consumption. Mahalo for letting others know.

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