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Kauai co-op sets pace among isle electricity providers

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Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, a member-owned electrical utility on Kauai, said it has been reducing its use of imported oil while increasing its use of renewable-energy technology.

The utility said Thursday at its annual member meeting that it avoided importing 2.5 million gallons of oil over four years and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 9 percent during that period. KIUC is working to increase its renewable-energy use to 38 percent by the end of this year from 9 percent in 2009.

Approximately 15 percent of KIUC’s electricity comes from renewable energy.

KIUC’s plan adds to the renewable-energy goals for Hawaii. Hawaiian Electric Co. has a target of 65 percent renewables in its energy mix by 2030, and Gov. David Ige recently signed a law that set 2045 as the year Hawaii should be producing 100 percent of its electric power from renewable energy sources.

The law sets an interim goal of 30 percent renewable-energy dependence by 2020. In line with the state’s current renewable-energy plan, the next benchmark calls for 40 percent renewables by 2030 and 70 percent by 2040.

If the co-op achieves 38 percent by 2015, it would surpass its counterparts on the neighbor islands. Hawaiian Electric Co. gets 21.3 percent of its electricity from renewables across its three utilities: Hawaiian Electric Co. on Oahu, Hawaii Electric Light Co. on Hawaii island and Maui Electric Co.

KIUC’s renewable-energy portfolio includes hydropower, two KIUC-owned solar farms, customer photovoltaic and a biomass plant.

To help the co-op reach its 2015 goal, two of KIUC’s solar arrays — one in Koloa and one in Anahola — will supply almost half the electrical demand on Kauai during the day.

David Bissell, president and CEO of KIUC, said the cooperative’s increasing use of renewable resources to generate electricity is paying off with stable rates and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

The utility serves 33,000 customers. More than 7 percent of those had photovoltaic systems, as 2,376 customers owned PV by the end of 2014. That’s an increase from 2010 when there were 378 PV systems on the island.

Nearly 16 percent of HECO’s customers have rooftop solar. There are 70,000 rooftop solar systems with a total of 450,000 customers.

KIUC lowered its rate to 32.7 cents a kilowatt-hour in July from 33.4 cents a kilowatt-hour in June. The bill in July for a household using 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity, including a $10.58 customer base charge, is $174.08.

The bill for a typical customer of the electric utility on Oahu, using the same amount of kilowatt-hours, is $146.21 in July, according to Hawaiian Electric Co.

The co-op said it had returned $2.1 million in patronage capital to its members for fiscal year 2014, an average of $24 for each residential customer. Since 2003 the co-op has returned $32.6 million in patronage capital and bill credits.

KIUC has a nine-member elected board of directors and is one of 900 electrical co-ops serving more than 42 million people in 47 states.

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