Powering Up on Kaua‘i

Jan 18, 2019

Hanalei Center | 2005
Credit Caracas1830 / Wikimedia Commons

Kauaʻi’s electrical utility has a different history from the rest of the islands and different opportunities. Pacific Business News editor in chief A. Kam Napier has more on what that has meant for its customer-owners.

On Oʻahu, Maui and the Big Island, electric utilities are part of the Hawaiian Electric family of companies. Kauai is a different story. That island’s electrical utility had been owned by the Connecticut-based Citizens Communications which sold off its electrical holdings in 2002, in including Kauaʻi Electric.

The utility restructured as a co-op, the Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative. It’s the youngest such co-op in the nation and there about 900 such utilities nationwide.

The co-op has become a global leader in the adoption of renewable energy. It has surpassed its goal of 50 percent renewables four years ahead of schedule and is on track to be at 70-percent renewable by 2030. As recently as 2010, just 6 percent of the island’s power came from renewable sources.

It has achieved this with global firsts, such as deploying the world’s first utility-scale solar-plus-battery installation in 2017. Being small, nimble and member-owned has made the difference, according to KIUC president and CEO, David Bissell, allowing the co-op to move aggressively, both financially and operationally.