Climbing the Bamboo Pole: Why We Formed a Co-Op Steering Committee

You know the Wayne Gretzky quote about skating to where the puck is going to be, not where it is? It refers, of course, to planning ahead.

My Pop’s story about climbing the bamboo pole taught me a lesson about planning ahead, too. He told me about fishing for aholehole with some friends at Maku‘u. They stuck a bamboo pole into the rock and hung a kerosene pole on it when, suddenly, they saw white water coming straight for them. It was going to cover the rocky point where they were fishing.

“What you going do?” my Pop asked me when he told me this story. I had no idea. He told me he climbed up the bamboo pole, hand over hand, lifted up his legs, and let the water go under him. Then he dropped back down and used the pole to fish his friends out of the water.

Before the white water arrived, he already knew what he would do. He had a plan.

NextEra is proposing to purchase the Hawaii Electric Company (HECO) grid, and this is a good time to compare alternatives. HECO has been having a tough time making necessary changes. NextEra looks like they can make the changes, but they’re not from here.

We have seen how the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) has done over the last 12 years. Each meter has one vote. KIUC has nearly $100 million in retained earnings that would have gone off island, but has stayed in the state instead. And they are flexible and can make changes in a timely manner.

The Big Island Energy Utility Cooperative steering committee we’ve created – to look into forming a Big Island Energy Co-op here on the Big Island – is our way of skating to where the puck is going to be, or climbing the bamboo pole. We are planning ahead.

We are doing all the legwork and research and information gathering now so that if there is an opportunity, we will be in position. If we don’t do this, we won’t be in the game.

The goals and benefits of a Big Island Energy Cooperative are:

  • Local, democratic control over one of the most important infrastructures and public goods on the island. This would provide more benefits to island residents, with any profits staying at home.
  • Community over off-island, corporate shareholder prioritiesas the cooperative would work for sustainable development of the island’s communities through policies approved and accepted by its members.
  • Lower electric costs through greater efforts to develop island-based energy sources, improve energy efficiency and an accelerated adoption of smart grid technologies.
  • Greater overall energy independence and sustainability through a comprehensive and integrated approach to all energy-consuming sectors on the island.
  • Development of island-produced fuels to provide an energy source for both electricity generation and transportation.

If not here, where? If not now, when? If not all of us, who?