Tag Archives: Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative

Whiteboard Animation: The Electric Cooperative Story

This short whiteboard animation explains really well just what an electric cooperative is and how it works. The 3-and-a-half-minute video is well-worth watching.

You’ll see how electric co-ops started in this country, back during the Roosevelt era when farmers and ranchers put in $5 each for membership and equity in a cooperative to bring electricity to their rural areas.

And you’ll see how the not-for-profit electric co-ops operate in ways that really align with how we think and live here in Hawai‘i. Members elect local directors to represent them. Co-ops work with other co-ops (they cooperate) for financing and research, to help after storms, and other times when needed. Profits are returned to members.

A co-op model is also better positioned to accomodate zero or negative economic growth than an investor-owned model.

Forty-two million people in the U.S. currently get their electricity through an electric co-op.

With a co-op model as our electric utility, we would not be all by ourselves. There’s no need to worry that it would just be us out here against the world.  Watch this short video and you’ll see there is a robust association of more than 900 co-ops in the U. S., all helping each other. No one is left behind.


What’s Happening Offshore & What We Can Do Here

We have to be aware of what’s going on offshore and how it affects us. Check out Energy specialist Art Berman’s presentation The Shale Revolution & The Current Oil Price Collapse.

Because energy and agriculture – fuel and food – are inextricably tied together, we need solutions that utilize everybody’s contributions.

The rising cost of producing petroleum energy products impacts everything we do. It takes energy to do work and especially to get food onto our plates. Sure technology extends energy, but technology is not energy in itself.

As for food production, we need help in every way we can get it, and certainly not hindrances. As an example, banning GMOs and Roundup raises the cost of food production without alleviating any proven danger. This impacts the people who can least afford the resulting increase in food prices.

In every single thing we do, the pluses have to exceed the minuses. How can we achieve this? We can form a business model that helps us maximize value to our people. Our Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative model, with its local control, helps us adapt the quickest to future situations that we cannot anticipate now. The co-op model can also help us become more competitive with the rest of the world without leaving anyone behind.

We have a lot of positives here on the Big Island. We’ll be over the geothermal “hot spot” for 500,000 to a million years. We have great wind resources and, like everybody else, we have sunlight. Thanks to our gentle climate, we don’t need artificial heating and cooling. The Big Island is especially blessed.

The sooner we can focus on taking care of all of us, and not just a few of us, the sooner we can start preparing for the future.

We CAN do this. We must.


Letter: Speak Out for Energy Co-op

My letter to the editor ran in today’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald:

The PUC will host “public listening sessions” to hear public opinion about the proposed NextEra/HEI merger before it starts formal hearings. Please attend and speak out for the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative.

In our lifetime, this is probably our only chance to make such a big change to our public utility and impact future generations so positively.

Public listening sessions are today (Sept. 29) at Hilo High School and Wednesday (Sept. 30) at Kealakehe High School. Both begin at 6 p.m. in each school’s cafeteria.

Background: After the proposed NextEra/HEI merger was announced, some grassroots people put together a co-op model for the Big Island, like what Kauai has had for 12 years. We are not against either NextEra or HEI/HECO, but offer an alternative business model.

A co-op has an elected board of directors made up of local people with staggered terms, so it stays sensitive to community concerns. The co-op is motivated to keep costs low, instead of making profits for shareholders. It considers multiple energy issues — transportation and food, as well as electricity, which is why it’s called the Hawaii Island Energy Co-op.

The issue is what business model is best for an uncertain future. We are concerned about costs, losing our identity and being competitive in a changing world of finite resources.

Because high costs force us to consider energy options not on the mainland’s radar, we actually have the potential to lead the nation. Two-thirds of our economy is made up of consumer spending. Think how a money-saving energy co-op could improve the Big Island’s standard of living, and, more importantly, our grandchildren’s.

It also would teach our future generations to adapt to change, and give them a world view that, “Not no can; CAN!”

Please attend today or Wednesday and tell the PUC you support the HIEC.

Richard Ha

President, Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative


Letter: How “Owning the Power” Benefits Us

Here’s a Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald letter to the editor from Noelani Kalipi about how the Hawai‘i Island Energy Cooperative would benefit us here on the Big Island.

She compares it to what happens with Kaua‘i utility co-op: “On Kauai, when a resident flips the switch, their dollars flow back to the community utility — Kauai Island Utility Cooperative — which uses the money to operate the system. If KIUC has more than what it needs, those funds go back into the pockets of Kauai ratepayers.”

Noelani’s letter to the editor from Saturday’s paper:

‘Own the power’

Turning on the lights has a bigger effect beyond your home. There is a direct connection between the dollars you provide to HELCO for electricity and Wall Street. The dollars move through Hilo to Honolulu and on to shareholders — many who don’t live in Hawaii.

If the NextEra/Hawaiian Electric deal is approved by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, the dollars from your pocket will travel even farther offshore, diverted through NextEra’s headquarters in Florida, then to global investors.

On Kauai, when a resident flips the switch, their dollars flow back to the community utility — Kauai Island Utility Cooperative — which uses the money to operate the system. If KIUC has more than what it needs, those funds go back into the pockets of Kauai ratepayers.

The upcoming PUC public listening sessions Tuesday and Wednesday on Hawaii Island are an opportunity to let the commissioners know we support another option: Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative. It is a unique opportunity for all energy consumers to “own the power.”

Let the PUC know Hawaii Island wants to consider a different option to the conglomerate utility. The investor-owned utility model is not bad. However, let’s look at homegrown alternatives that allow us to turn to power sources that suit us best. Renewable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective sources.

If you come early to the listening sessions, which start at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hilo High and at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Kealakehe High, supporters of HIEC will give you an Own the Power T-shirt. The PUC needs to hear from us. 

Noelani Kalipi, Hilo


Last Chance to Have Important Input: 9/29 & 9/30

I want to ask you to take a couple hours out of one evening and do something important.

This is probably, truly, the only chance in our lifetime to change our public utility and impact our future generations so positively. If you only ever do something like this once, this is the time.

The PUC wants to know what the public thinks about the proposed NextEra/HEI merger before it holds its formal hearings in late November. PUC members will be at Hilo High School on September 29th, and at Kealakehe High School on September 30th for “public listening sessions.” Both meetings will be at 6 p.m. in the school cafeteria.

Please speak up at one of these meetings and support the Hawai‘i Island Energy Cooperative (HIEC). It’s important we show up in numbers and let them know this matters to us.

The first PUC public listening session was held on Maui recently, and, even though it was scheduled on Labor Day weekend, Civil Beat reports more than 200 people showed up.

Here’s some background on HIEC: After the proposed NextEra/HEI merger was announced, some grassroots people put together a co-op model to run the Big Island’s electric utility, like Kaua‘i has had for 12 years now.

Although there was no willing seller, we decided to prepare in case the opportunity arose to purchase the Big Island’s electric utility. We raised money and hired professional people to help us enter the PUC discussions and get out the word. We are not against either NextEra or HEI/HECO, but are offering an alternative business model we think is best for our children and their children’s futures.

We think the co-op business model best prepares us for a changing future. The motivation is to keep costs low, not make profits for shareholders. And because it is run by a board of local people with staggered terms, it takes into account both community concerns and local perspectives of aloha ‘aina.

A co-op considers multiple energy issues – ground transportation, fertilizer and food, as well as electricity, which is why it’s called the Hawai‘i Island Energy Co-op. We operate with a broad view.

Also, instead of just maintaining the status quo, could we actually become competitive with the rest of the world? Because high costs force us to consider energy options not on the mainland’s radar, we even have the potential to lead the nation. Two-thirds of our economy is made up of consumer spending. Think how a money-saving energy co-op could improve the Big Island’s standard of living, and, more importantly, our grandchildren’s.

It also teaches future generations to adapt to change, and gives a world view that, “Not no can; CAN!”

Officially, HIEC is “a Hawaii-registered 421C non-profit cooperative association, was formed by community and business leaders on the island to explore and promote a comprehensive approach to develop an integrated, renewable and sustainable energy strategy for the Big Island of Hawaii.” You can read more about the merits of a community-based, cooperative ownership structure for electric utility service, and see the HIEC advisory board, here. Read our frequently asked questions.

Please put one of those dates on your calendar now, attend one of the Big Island listening sessions, and let the PUC know you support the Hawai‘i Island Energy Cooperative.

  • Tuesday, 9/29   6 p.m.   Hilo High School cafeteria
  • Wednesday, 9/30 6 p.m.   Kealakehe High School cafeteria

Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative Hires Communication Team

(HILO, HAWAII, SEPTEMBER 8, 2015)—Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative (HIEC) has retained the veteran firm, Hastings & Pleadwell: A Communication Company (H&P) to do public outreach about the benefits of a utility cooperative for Hawaii Island.

For 20 years, H&P has provided communication services to clients in Hawaii and beyond, many of them concentrated in the alternative energy or technology arenas.

Barbara A. Hastings, a founding partner of the firm, has been following and writing about energy matters since the Arab Oil Embargo of the mid-1970s. She was an energy fellow in the Stanford University program for working journalists.

HIEC is in the exploratory and public education phase, seeking to inform Hawaii Island residents of the potential, and merits, of self-ownership of its local electric utility.

With the successful Kauai Island Utility Cooperative as a model, the HIEC board is exploring cooperative utility ownership for its island.

“H&P proved a good fit, given its roots on both Hawaii Island and Oahu, and its background in the energy field,” said Marco Mangelsdorf, HIEC board director and spokesman.

HIEC was founded earlier this year and is an intervener in the Public Utilities Commission proceeding reviewing the proposed sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries, including Hawaii Electric Light Co. (HELCO), to NextEra Energy of Juno Beach, Florida.

Some of the cooperative benefits HIEC wants to communicate include potentially lower energy rates over time; financial gains go directly to members, not shareholder profits; and local, democratic control of the island’s energy future.

Ashley Kierkiewicz, a Hawaii Island native, will lead part of the outreach efforts and partner Barbra Pleadwell will assist with strategy. H&P has offices in Hilo and Honolulu.

About Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative
HIEC is a non-profit cooperative association that seeks to establish a member-owned electric utility and encourage non-petroleum-based transportation for Hawaii Island. HIEC presents a unique opportunity for all electricity consumers to “own the power.” For more information, visit www.hiec.coop. HIEC is on Facebook and Twitter @HiEnergyCoop.


Cost-Effective For Whom? Responding to NextEra

I cringed when I saw this morning’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald article NextEra Adviser: Co-ops Not Cost-Effective. Now NextEra, the company hoping to acquire Hawaii Electric Industries (HEI), has a Massachusetts-based spokesman speaking for it.

NextEra says it’s sensitive to Hawai‘i, but this spokesman is from Massachusetts. It’s exactly what many of us are wary of – mainland advisors with no idea of the complexity of the issues. The NextEra spokesman didn’t even seem to know that the Big Island has an abundance of natural resources quite different from what’s available on the mainland.

NextEra says if it purchases HEI in its proposed $4.3 billion deal, it would let us have an advisory board – but that doesn’t really mean anything. An advisory board wouldn’t have any power. It would be the same thing as a representative to Congress back in the Territorial days.

NextEra would be investor-owned, which means its goal would be to make money for it investors and shareholders. That would be the priority. If it benefits the Hawai‘i ratepayer at all, that would be incidental.

Contrast that with the co-op, which is non-profit and it is not taxed (that savings is returned to the ratepayers). Right there, even without making any other changes, a co-op already saves money compared to an investor-owned utility because it pays no taxes.

The co-op is not going to tell you exactly what it is going to do. We are going to set the framework so we and future generations will always be equipped to make decisions and do what is best as conditions change. There’s no way we can know now what the future holds.

Co-ops have a nine-member board of directors, with each member having a staggered term. Every year, three positions come up for election. This keeps it sensitive to what’s going on in the community. The co-op’s board structure is a self-correcting mechanism that is responsive to what the people are thinking as attitudes change over time. You don’t see that in a powerful company that’s located far away.

A company like NextEra tells you what it’s going to do and then locks it in – because that’s how it makes money for its investors. Not because it works for the local community, or saves money for ratepayers.

Keep in mind, it’s not the biggest or the strongest that survive; it’s the ones that can adapt to change. NextEra is by far the biggest (but so were the dinosaurs, and they’re not around anymore).

Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative is big enough (it will be part of a 900-member cooperative association with its own, healthy, financial institution) and it’s about adapting. It’s about doing what we have the opportunity to do for the Big Island right now – changing our energy utility to a cooperative model –  so we, and future generations, can adapt to changing conditions as needed, and survive and thrive.


More on the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative

The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative formed after the NextEra/HEI merger was announced. Several community grassroots organizations got together and asked the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) folks to come to Hilo and do a briefing on how they got started.

After that meeting back in December 2014, a steering committee of Big Island community members looked into the feasibility of the Big Island forming a utility co-op. Although HELCO was not for sale, the group decided to prepare just in case an opportunity came up to purchase it.

This post talks about that KIUC briefing and how we formed the co-op steering committee.

Henry Curtis wrote about the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative today at Ililani Media:

Big Island Energy Cooperative on the Move

The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative (HIEC) was founded in January 2015. HIEC proceeded to file a motion to intervene in Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Docket 2015-0022 and was granted party status by the Commission.
That regulatory proceeding is examining the proposed sale of Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and its subsidiaries Maui Electric Company (MECO) and Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) to NextEra Energy (NEE). 
Attorneys David J. Minkin, Brian T. Hirai and Peter J. Hamasaki from the law firm McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP, represent both HIEC and the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) in the merger proceedings.
HIEC was formed not only to explore the possibility of a Big Island community-based electric utility cooperative but also to examine other energy issues such as sustainable transportation policies.
HIEC has staked out a clear position. It is no for or against the merger and it is not promoting an alternative to HELCO or NextEra. Rather “HIEC seeks to bring to the proceedings its specific focus on the energy needs of Hawaii Island and its unique perspective on potential cooperative ownership structures.” 
HIEC Spokesperson Marco Mangelsdorf asserted that “being able to have more direct control over Hawaii Island’s present and future energy profile would provide us with an extraordinary opportunity to showcase what can be done on our island on many different and innovative levels.”