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KIUC touts lowest rate increase, at forefront of renewables

LIHU‘E — For the third straight year, Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative leads the state in renewables, reporting 69.5% of electricity production coming from renewable sources in its annual filing for 2021.

“We’ve essentially reached the state’s 2040 renewable benchmark a full 19 years early, and nine years ahead of our Board of Directors’ strategic goal,” stated KIUC’s President and Chief Executive Officer David Bissell, following the utility’s annual Renewable Portfolio Standards filing with the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission.

He added that 69.5% is more than double the state’s current RPS requirement of 30%.

Kaua‘i’s power generation mix for 2021 included 45% solar, 14% hydro and 11% biomass. Rooftop solar from residential and commercial members accounted for one-third of all solar generation.

Bissell attributed the gain in renewables over last year’s 67% to having the first full year of production from the AES PMRF solar and storage project, along with increased production from hydro projects and customer-owned solar installations. In addition to leading in renewables, KIUC also recorded the best reliability statistics in the state for 2021.

Kaua‘i’s high renewable percentage helps explain the relatively mild impact soaring oil prices have had on rates for KIUC’s members. While the average residential bill for electricity has risen between 25% to 35% between March 2021 and March 2022 for the rest of the state, KIUC’s member bills have risen only 5% over that same period, during which the price of oil increased nearly 75%.

“Replacing fossil fuel generation with fixed-price renewables is not only a huge benefit for the environment, it has effectively stabilized electricity rates on Kaua‘i in the face of one of the biggest spikes in oil prices in decades,” said Bissell.

“Our small size has actually turned into a comparative advantage, which is very unusual in the utility industry,” said Bissell. “While all Hawaiian Islands are showing significant progress in moving towards renewables, Kaua‘i has moved the fastest. In today’s high oil price environment, this has translated directly to lower rates for our members.”

Bissell also credits local governance and KIUC’s status as a not-for-profit cooperative for much of its success. “At this point, we’ve largely weaned ourselves off of oil,” stated Bissell. “To be in this position just 20 short years after becoming a cooperative is remarkable. It’s a testament to what can happen when a board, staff and members unite behind a worthy goal.”

KIUC’s next renewable effort, the West Kaua‘i Energy Project (WKEP), would bring the island’s renewable generation to nearly 90% by the end of 2025.

Designed as a hybrid solar-plus-storage and pumped storage hydro project, WKEP will deliver many benefits to KIUC’s members and the community at large, including: additional stabilization of electricity rates, opening up dormant agricultural lands for production, maintaining mandated streamflow for four streams in Koke‘e, and increasing public access and recreational opportunities.

Learn more about WKEP and KIUC’s renewable efforts at kiuc.coop/renewables.
Source: The Garden Island

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