Monday, March 8, 2010

Jan T for KIUC: reporter as citizen

You won't find many candidly political positions on this site, but here's one:

For those readers on Kauai, I'm running for the board of our island's electric utility, the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, KIUC. And I'd appreciate your vote.

I'm Jan TenBruggencate, the guy pictured here. If you're a regular reader, you know I'm interested in energy efficiency, alternative energy, the impacts of using oil almost exclusively for power, as well as social justice.

If you get an electric bill on Kauai, this week you'll receive a ballot. Your choice can be made by mail, by phone or by email. There are five of us running for three board seats. It's a three year term. See more information here.

One of the first questions people ask is, “Are you nuts?” Besides the fact that several people in the utility and in the energy community urged me to run, I had my own impetus. After a career as a newspaper writer prohibited by ethical concerns from participating actively in the community, I feel the need—even the requirement—to “pay back.” So I'm serving on a community board and a county commission, and now the KIUC bid.

“Gosh, you've turned into a citizen,” said a friend and former co-worker.

Another common question, “Are you committed.”

That normally means, “What are you doing personally?” Well, I ride a bike. We have a photovoltaic system. I've got energy efficient lights and appliances at home. I recycle like crazy.

But sometimes "Are you committed," means committed to community, which is code for, "Just how local are you?" I've lived on Kauai for nearly 40 years, and was raised on a Molokai pineapple plantation, but not born here. My degree is from UH. I have worked from every one of the main Hawaiian Islands, and also some smaller ones, including Niihau, Kahoolawe, Nihoa, Laysan, Midway and Kure. I not only paddle but build outrigger canoes.

I have been fortunate enough to be one of three candidates nominated by the citizen panel that votes as the KIUC Nominating Committee. I've also been endorsed by the energy efficiency and conservation group, Apollo Kauai.

I can't promise much beyond careful attention, hard work and an open mind. I like to think that years as a reporter, much of it covering science, have given me a capability to conduct research, to assess opportunities and challenges, and to judge alternatives.

My goals if elected, are:
--work to ensure reasonable rates and reliable service
--to promote efficiency and renewable energy, while reducing oil dependence
--to do it as cost-effectively as possible, using the best technology available, while protecting the environment
--to ensure that rates and policies are fair to all segments of the population

Kauai's energy future faces big challenges. Just a generation ago, half our power was produced from local renewable resources—bagasse and hydroelectric power. Today we are roughly 90 percent dependent on imported oil for our power. This gives us little control over supply and electricity costs, and makes our energy future vulnerable.

A significant portion Kauai's electricity costs is tied to the global oil prices. We were paying 35 cents a kilowatt a few years ago. We paid nearly 50 cents at one point in 2008 when oil nearly reached $150 a barrel. It dropped into the 25 cent range last year, and recently it was more than 35 cents again.

A 2008 KIUC membership survey said residents want reasonable rates and good value. Our citizens can't budget for energy prices that swing so widely. In order to gain control of our rates we need to shed our vulnerability to oil.

Although these are challenging times it is also a time of new opportunities for KIUC. There's lots going on. We have federal financial help to upgrade our metering infrastructure. Conservation and efficiency technologies are maturing, and we need to do more in this area. New building standards will moderate the increase in energy demand. And in both the short term and the long, there are several renewable energy production technologies in active discussion or development.

The issues we face are difficult ones, but our community has the benefit of the cooperative form of utility ownership. We are all in this together. We all own this electric utility, and we all must take a part. We are stronger because of the breadth of ideas in our extensive community, and I can assure you that I'll be listening.

I will be happy to respond to any questions. You can reach me at This campaign depends on your spreading the word—if you believe I can do a good job, please talk to your friends and neighbors, ask them to vote when the ballot arrives.

Thanks very much.

--Jan TenBruggencate


zzzzzz said...

Good luck. I think you'll be great at the job. Kaua'i, especially out by Kekaha and PMRF, seems like as good a location for solar energy as any, with the high electric rates and abundant sunshine.

Will you still be blogging and giving us a chance to influence you?

Jan T said...

The blog will go on. Thanks.

Punohu's Politics,Environment and Culture said...

well i was a little skeptical at first, but after hearing you at the forum, I back you one hundred percent Jan.

I was a little wary, but after listening to your answers at the forum, I am one hundred percent convinced that you will be a terrific voice for change at KIUC.

I will whole heartedly be supporting you for the BOD.

I do not give that endorsement lightly. I am very tough on candidates when it comes to endorsements. I do not support anyone for any office lightly and I am very tough to convince especially on environment and socio-economics.

So I want to congratulate you for passing my scrutiny.

Thanks for stepping up and being willing to serve!

Now do a good job, and don't make me eat my words!


Mauibrad said...

Jan, your goals are laudable, but some of them actually work against each other. By what you list below, you could go any direction on any issue or decision before the KIUC Board. The question is which of those points within your goals do you view as most important? Your list as it is, is probably a list that all current Board Members and candidates would say they support:

"My goals if elected, are:
--work to ensure reasonable rates and reliable service
--to promote efficiency and renewable energy, while reducing oil dependence
--to do it as cost-effectively as possible, using the best technology available, while protecting the environment
--to ensure that rates and policies are fair to all segments of the population"

huin said...

The food looks amazing and such a fun venue!