Randy Hee & Reliability

SUBHEAD: KIUC's trend is towards 'reliability’. Renewable energy sources still on the back burner.

By Leo Azambuja on 18 August 2009 in The Garden Island -
Image above: Computer graphic titled "Power Substation" by Christopher M. Park,
From http://www.christophermpark.com/gallery.php?sGal=12_Dreams_of_Steel_and_Coal&sPN=Power_Substation.jpg&sFilters=t#spgmPicture

KIUC PUC Hearing on Rate Increase

25 August 2009

Wilcox Elementary School in Lihue

Because it's your power company
[IB Publisher's note: The article below demonstrates the bankrupt thinking of Randall Hee and those running KIUC. He talks about lower rates now but that they will be trending up in the future. He talks of a need to trend towards more "reliability". Let's get one thing straight. The term "more reliability" is a code for "more centralized power plants and forgetting about distributed power generation from alternative sources" (solar, wind and hydro). "Reliability" means having more grid power generating capability than you need on average. KIUC is going exactly the wrong direction planning on its $75 million Gen X plant as part of its overall plan. We should have let Kauai Electric go belly up and not be saddled with $200 million in debt and be saddled with a retro thinking KIUC board. It' may be time to bail out of KIUC and get a Kauai Alternative Power Credit Union (KAPCU) going in its place. Then we can target alternative energy with a goal of flexibility and distributed generation.]

Hungry for a tasty bowl of chili and rice, some Caesar salad, Kauai-made cookies, and more importantly, news from the local electric cooperative, well over 300 people crowded the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall, Sunday evening.

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative Annual Membership Meeting was to update its members of the co-op’s goals and achievements, and there was hardly a dull moment.

KIUC President and CEO Randal Hee reminded the crowd that the co-op is celebrating six full years of existence.

“We really have gone a long way,” he said.

The number of OSHA recordable accidents is down to only two so far this year, as opposed to 10 in 2008, according to Hee. The number of lost workdays this year is only three (one case), while in 2008 KIUC had 27 lost workdays (five cases).

Hee said in 2007, the average outage-hours per customer was 3.5 hours. By 2008, KIUC was able to keep that number at 1.5 hours, and in 2009 so far the number is at .75 hours.

“The trend is towards reliability,” Hee said. “Your lights will go out less. ... We were 99.99 percent reliable in 2008, and that’s a credit to our system improvements.”

KIUC customers might have been wondering why their electric bills have dropped this year. Hee said that in August 2008 the fuel was at its highest cost ever, resulting in KIUC’s highest rates ever.

“We dropped down (our prices) as a result of market changes and economic slump,” Hee said.

However, the prices could rise again.

“It’s trending back up,” Hee said, adding that at this time it appears to be market speculation.

Hee told KIUC members that one of the co-op’s key components is to become more energy efficient. KIUC is working together with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to figure out how much the co-op can reduce usage on Kauai.

The co-op’s long-term strategic plan says that by 2023, 50 percent of its electricity has to come from renewable sources, without burning fuel fossils.

“We have also been looking at solar energy,” Hee said.

KIUC is using a government stimulus to install a two-megawatt storage battery, which will allow the co-op to study how to store photovoltaic power, Hee said. The sun’s rays can provide thermal and photovoltaic energy.

Hee also discussed biomass derived from agricultural waste, hydroelectric power and wind farms.

“Wind is still a source we’re studying,” Hee said, adding that it is difficult to pursue wind energy at this time because studies in seabird flying paths still need to done.

KIUC gets power from two hydroelectric plants and is studying additional sites.

KIUC Chief Financial Officer David Bissel reminded the audience the co-op is seeking a 10.5 percent rate increase, the first one since 1996.

The Public Utilities Commission already approved KIUC’s rate increase application. Now it’s up to the public to give its input. The community is invited to a public hearing at 6 p.m., Aug. 25, at Wilcox Elementary School cafeteria.

KIUC Board Secretary David Iha said that in the first three months this year the co-op operated in the red. It was the first time in KIUC history that the expenses exceeded the revenue. But Iha said KIUC has turned it around and has been able to net some profit.

New board member Steve Rapozo said there is now a $200 application fee for new accounts. That fee will be refunded after a year of service, with eight percent interest, as long as the account is kept up to par.

Rapozo said KIUC should have all profit-sharing checks mailed by Wednesday. If a member hasn’t received a check a short while after that date, KIUC should be contacted.

The USDA, through the KIUC, has an interest-free loan program benefiting rural communities. Rapozo said Kauai Hospice, Hale Opio, the National Tropical Botanical Gardens and a few schools already benefited from this program, and KIUC has currently over $400,000 available. After the loan is paid back, the money is re-used in new loans.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel for the needy. Allan Smith, the co-op’s treasurer, said KIUC Charitable Foundation Board currently helps 700 low-income families to pay their electric bills.

After almost two hours of music, food, recognitions and numbers, KIUC saved the best for the last.

Every year hundreds of high-school students across the nation are hand-picked by local electric cooperatives for their excellence to participate in a week-long tour in Washington, D.C. The event is called “Government in Action” Youth Tour.

KIUC sends four students each year. From June 11-18, Natasha Abadilla, from Waimea High School; Dustin Julian, from Kaua‘i High school; Lacey Kalahiki, from Kamehameha School; and Alyssa Clark, from Kapa‘a High School, teamed up with 32 high-school students from Kansas to attend the event.

The four Hawai‘i students, together with the Kansas students, spent a couple days in Kansas, touring the local electric co-op, the Kansas State Capitol, learning about local history, and attending a Kansas City Royals ball game. Then they headed to D.C.

Abadilla and Julian were at the meeting, and showed a short video of the trip.

“It was the highlight of my year,” Abadilla said with a smile from ear to ear, adding that she learned a lot in the short time she spent touring the nation’s capital.

Julian was equally ecstatic. “It is unbelievable what we can learn in only a couple of weeks.”

In Washington, D.C. the students met with Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawai‘i, visited the Capitol, the Smithsonian Museum, the Marine Corps Monument, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Pentagon Memorial, and the Arlington National Cemetery.

KIUC Board Chair Teofilo “Phil” Tacbian said one of the most important things KIUC does is work with lawmakers and government officials.

“We have been very lucky that all of the people that we work with in the government have been very kind to us,” he said.

The crowd gave a thunderous ovation to newly elected County Councilman Derek Kawakami, a former KIUC director, and Councilwoman Lani Kawahara, who were present at the meeting.

Tacbian introduced new board members Stewart Burley, Benjamin Sullivan and Steve Rapozo.

KIUC had promised to distribute free bags of rice to the first 200 members, but its staff ended up giving away nearly 300 bags.

The Sunshine Express, Kalaheo School’s choir, opened the meeting with a delightful musical performance, giving a community get-together flair to the event. Residents, kupuna and keiki chatted and played, adding to the evening’s mood.

After it was all said and done, Tacbian adjourned the meeting, asking for aloha from the audience.

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