PUHI — The Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the Lihu‘e Business Association, hosted the first of three panel discussions with candidates for the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative Board of Directors Wednesday night at Kaua‘i Community College.
Unfolding before an audience of two dozen people, with several attendees disappointed they could not ask questions, the candidates responded to questions prepared by members of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce, the L.B.A., Apollo Kaua‘i and the Kaua‘i AARP.
Candidates vying for three positions on the board include Carol Bain, Stewart “Stu” Burley, Allan Smith, John “Jack” Benzie, Jonathan Jay and Jan TenBruggencate.
In response to how KIUC will work with members to help lower electricity bills, Bain said there are large ways and there are small ways.
“KIUC has distributed more than 15,000 compact fluorescent lamps,” Bain said. “Solar water heating can also reduce usage by one-third. I welcome suggestions from the community as this is a way for us to learn.”
Smith said one good note about the rate reduction is KIUC is doing better than O‘ahu, Maui and the Big Island, the only other islands doing better than Kaua‘i being Moloka‘i and Lana‘i.
Burley suggested people turn off the lights.
“There are a lot of good suggestions in the ‘Currents’ magazine,” Burley said. “Another step is to install an eco meter, which gives you a reading every 10 seconds on your usage.”
Bain, who says she brings an educator perspective to the board, said “conservation and efficiency must be part of the plan. Before any hydro project is developed, an environmental impact statement and a strong cultural impact study must be completed. Shared water resources are key to food sustainability as well as energy.”
Benzie, a resident of Princeville, says he brings an engineering background to the board and “support a sustainable/renewable local energy supply, increased visibility for the members into the rate supply structure and lower electric rates for all of us.”
Burley, returning for a spot after leaving to care for his wife, said getting back on the KIUC board is a way for him to “give back to the island I have loved for the past 56 years.”
Smith, who says he is experienced in collaboration and leadership, says he will “continue to power our community and empower KIUC members to improve the quality of their lives; continue to improve the communication between KIUC and members; keep paying attention to and caring for its employees; and meeting KIUC sustainable energy goals.”
Jay, a co-founder of Apollo Kaua‘i, Zero Waste Kaua‘i, Power to the People, and co-host of “Out of the Box” radio show on KKCR, has as his priority to “democratize” KIUC, making its meetings more conducive to public attendance.
TenBruggencate, a former writer for The Honolulu Advertiser, said “during my three years on the KIUC board of directors, our utility has increased public outreach, expanded renewable energy activity and kept our cooperative financially healthy. We are developing or signing up developers with renewable energy projects at much less than the cost of oil-fired power. Our rates haven’t come down, yet, but they will, relative to utilities which haven’t taken these steps.”
The discussion was broadcast live by KKCR radio and taped for delay broadcasting by Ho‘ike Community Television.
The second panel discussion will take place Wednesday at the Church of the Pacific, partnered with the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce and the Church of the Pacific, from 6 to 8 p.m.
The final panel discussion, partnering with the County of Kaua‘i and the Chamber, will be hosted at the Waimea Neighborhood Center on March 13 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Ballots for the KIUC Board of Directors will be mailed starting in March with a deadline of March 23 to vote. There are three ways to vote — online, by telephone or the traditional paper ballot, which can either be mailed in or dropped off in person for deposit in the locked ballot box located in the lobby of the KIUC office located at 4463 Pahe‘e St., Ste. No. 1, in Lihu‘e.