Tag Archives: HIEC

It Takes All Of Us: Help the Hawaii Island Energy Co-op

Help us make the case that a co-op utility model is in the Big Island’s interest by donating to our crowdfunding effort.

Before we can ask large investors for additional funding, we need to raise $50,000 to prove that the community is on-board with a coop for Big Island. The money will be used for planning and public outreach. (Actual purchase of the utility would be made with traditional financing sources.)

Donate here

Donate today and we’ll send you an “Own the Power” t-shirt and other cool HIEC swag.

Here’s the Hawai‘i Island Energy Cooperative’s story:

HIEC was formed after a huge offshore company announced in late 2014 that it intended to buy our local electric utility. Our board decided that as the deal was being evaluated, all options should be put on the table—including, and especially, an energy cooperative for Hawai‘i Island.

To date, HIEC has actively participated in public meetings and hearings hosted by the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission (PUC), offering expert testimony regarding the merits and benefits for the people of a Big Island cooperative.

Right now, HIEC needs your support. Before we can ask large investors for additional funding, we need to raise $50,000 to prove that the community is on-board with a coop for Big Island. The money will be used for planning and public outreach. (Actual purchase of the utility would be made with traditional financing sources.)

Donate today and we’ll send you an “Own the Power” t-shirt and other cool HIEC swag.

Why a coop? Local, democratic control, community-driven strategic priorities and potentially lower electric costs are just a few reasons. Under the coop model, profits would be returned to members or invested back into the coop; no dividends paid to the Mainland or to outside shareholders—the money stays local.

HIEC is connected to a national network of energy coops—more than 900 across the United States. If we are able to negotiate a deal to buy the utility, this affords us access to low cost capital as well as purchasing power for things like renewable energy development, pensions and information technology.

HIEC is not be alone. Our friends on Kaua’i operate the state’s only electric cooperative. We have been working closely with Kaua’i Island Utility Coop (KIUC) to build on its experiences. KIUC recently reached 90% renewable energy penetration and has returned $33 million to its members since 2002. We believe this is due to its cooperative business model—the ability to be nimble and rapidly respond to Hawai‘i’s changing energy landscape.

The decisions we make today on Hawai‘i’s energy future will have long lasting impacts. Help HIEC continue its work of being an active participant in the PUC process as well as keeping the community plugged in via social media, eNewsletters, farmers market pop-ups and coffee hours. The power can be in YOUR hands!


Civil Beat Article about Richard & Co-op: ‘When People Power Meets Electricity’

Did you see this Civil Beat article that ran yesterday about Richard and the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative? It’s a good look at how the price of oil and electricity affects agriculture.

When People Power Meets Electricity On The Big Island

NextEra Energy’s proposed takeover of Hawaii’s century-old utility has sparked a renewed effort to establish an electric utility co-op on Hawaii Island.

At Hamakua Springs Country Farms on the Big Island earlier this year, rows of aging arched white awnings covered surprisingly barren soil along the dirt road that leads into the farm.


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.


Diagnosing Our Electricity Situation

This blog post by Gail Tverberg, Our Electricity Problem: Getting the Diagnosis Right, clearly explains what is going on in the world today and makes it easy to understand some things that seem counterintuitive at first glance.

She write about the oil price drop, and, recently, the economic slowdown. That’s the counterintuitive bit – you’d think with the drop in the price of oil, the economy would be picking up.

I have followed Gail’s analyses for a long time now. What she explains in this blog post is something she’s been predicting, and talking about, for quite awhile.

And here’s the thing – she’s been right on the mark for as long as I’ve known her. She is more doom and gloom about it than I am, but then I have never been able to prove her wrong. So it’s best to be prudent and try to protect ourselves as much as we can.

It’s why I’m pushing the utility co-op. An investor-owned electricity utility would just take us farther down the same old path in the wrong direction.

With a co-op, we are in control of our direction and our destiny. We would manage it ourselves; it would not be managed by people whose end goal was trying to make a dollar for investors. This is what I see as the basic difference between the NextEra plan and ours, and it’s a huge one.

We need to control our direction in order to take care of ourselves, and even more importantly so our kids and grandkids and their grandkids will be able to adapt to changing conditions and take care of themselves. The future is not going to look like, or work like, the past.

Go read Gail’s blog post, where she makes that easy to see. Things are already different, on many levels, and we need to be doing our long-term planning now. It’s like my Pop taught me – we plan for the future by taking small steps now so that later we don’t have to take drastic, catastrophic steps just to survive.

We have to take care of all of us, not just a few of us.

Those survival lessons I learned from my Pop were simple, and it’s time to put them into play.

If Gail’s wrong about how bad it will get, that’s okay. No harm, no foul. But if she’s right, we’ll have done the right thing. Either way, we will have protected ourselves.


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


Letter: Why Hawaii Island Energy Co-op Makes Sense

Michelle Galimba’s letter to the editor in Friday’s Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald offered a great overview of why the Hawai‘i Island Energy Cooperative makes great sense for the Big Island.

Here’s Michelle’s letter:

Support the Co-op

Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative is a group of local people who want to offer an alternative path to the NextEra-HEI deal. We want to make our Hawaii Island more resilient and equitable by keeping decision-making and accountability here on our island.

We want to offer the possibility of taking responsibility for the energy future of our island communities by means of an energy cooperative that will be owned by all energy users on Hawaii Island. This is a path that already has been taken by the citizens of Kauai, and by more than 900 other communities across the United States.

We will have the opportunity to make our voices heard on the question of the ownership of the energy utility for our island at the Public Utility Commission’s public hearings at 6 p.m. Sept. 29 in the Hilo High School cafeteria and at 6 p.m. Sept. 30 at the Kealakehe High School auditorium.

Let’s let the PUC know we support an energy cooperative for Hawaii Island!

Michelle Galimba, Naalehu

Please come out this Tuesday (at 6 p.m. in the Hilo High cafeteria) or Wednesday (at 6 p.m. in the Kealakehe High cafeteria) to let the PUC know that you support the Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative. Read more about why this is important.


Own the Power: 9/29 in Hilo, 9/30 in Kona

Only 2 more days until the first PUC public listening meeting at Hilo High School, and 3 more days until the meeting at Kealakehe High. The PUC wants to know what the public thinks about the proposed NextEra/HEI merger before holding its formal hearings in late November.

Read about it here, but most importantly, please show up at one of the meetings. This is probably the last chance in our lifetime to change our public utility and impact our future generations so positively.Richard Ha Hamakua Springs



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.