Where are KIUC co-op benefits?

SUBHEAD: If we are a co-op, why doesn't KIUC listen to it's members? By Pat Gegan on 24 April 2011 in The Garden Island - (http://thegardenisland.com/business/local/article_0ea93334-6e2c-11e0-b84c-001cc4c03286.html) Image above: Rural power plant spewing smoke. From (http://www.fnal.gov/pub/today/archive_2008/today08-05-23.html). Energy bills are rising and falling based on political and economic issues far from Kaua‘i. Is this what was planned when Kaua‘i Electric was purchased to become Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative? I think not. We can do much better. None of us want our electric rates to continue making the swings from just barely affordable to painful, especially when we are reliant upon many forces outside of our control. Becoming a co-op was meant to benefit the people of Kaua‘i who use electricity from the grid. Have your electric bills gone down since you became a member? Have you seen a stabilization of rates in the past eight years? Have you seen Kaua‘i become more self-sustaining and keep the money you spend on electricity stay on the island? So I ask: What are the benefits of being a cooperative? KIUC has possibilities and great opportunities waiting to happen. I think it would be difficult to find many on Kaua‘i who feel or know how they have benefited since KE became KIUC. At issue today are renewable and alternative energy sources. Which ones would the members like to see KIUC pursue, and at what cost are they acceptable? Has your voice been heard? KIUC is committed to moving in this direction, according to the Board of Directors, although we have seen only minimal improvements. Is KIUC going after the alternatives you would like to see developed from an economic, environmental and a sustainable perspective? KIUC has chosen, with minimal input from members, to go after the following alternative energy sources: photovoltaic, biomass and hydropower. How is this working? PV is a simple and clean solution that has minimal impact on the environment and provides clean energy using one of Kaua‘i’s most abundant resources. KIUC is positioned to take the lead in the world on how much PV Solar they are putting on the grid. I applaud them for their efforts in this arena. Biomass and hydropower are another story. Both of these have impacts on Kaua‘i’s environment and our quality of life. Biomass is coming, as is evident in Kekaha at the old sugar mill. Residents have expressed concerns regarding property values and the potential for air emissions affecting their health. Image above: Pat Gegen uses an electric meter to graphically demonstrate the energy and cost savings between a compact florescent, Light Emitting Diode and an incandescent lamp during the 2011 Earth Day celebration at Kaua‘i Community College on Wednesday. Photo by Dennis Fujimoto for TGI. Were these issues discussed prior to the siting and approval of the power purchase agreements? Did residents most affected have input into KIUC’s decision? Where was the transparency and open discussion with members of the co-op before this decision was made? Hydropower is a very polarizing issue, as is the manner in which KIUC has chosen to explore these possibilities through the permitting process. KIUC and Free Flow Power have initiated permitting based on old engineering and plans.It got the public in an uproar because those plans, not acceptable years ago, were resurrected. There is also deep concern regarding water rights and what would happen to those rights if a hydro plant is using this water. I believe the issue can be worked out in most cases, but these concerns should be discussed prior to announcements of KIUC’s intention so they can address public and member acceptance of its plans prior to locking into agreements. Does KIUC hear the will of its members? According to the Kaua‘i Energy Sustainability Plan, which was submitted to the county in 2010, many of the people thought KIUC’s board was being too aggressive in its focus on Hydropower. Did the board take this information and learn from it? Did they have meetings with the public to better gauge their concerns? They did not. The KIUC board needs to take a pro-active approach toward getting us into renewable and alternative power. They need to work with members to find out what direction we would like them to go instead of making decisions in the board room and then having to waste our money trying to justify their decisions after the fact. KIUC is a cooperative and as such should be working with its members to develop solutions to our energy needs rather than just telling us what they are going to do. .

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