For America’s newest electric co-op, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s (KIUC) brand of co-op service is a little more special. The communities they touch include 300,000 co-op consumer members across the ocean in the Philippines. Soon after KIUC was formed in 2003, a sister relationship was formed with two Filipino electric co-ops: Ilocos Sur Electric Cooperative and Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative. It was a family matter. One third of Kauai’s residents are of Filipino ancestry, and many of them are from the Ilocos region.
Over the years, KIUC has worked with NRECA International to strengthen the two Filipino co-ops with funds and equipment. Past efforts include donating utility vehicles, and being the driving force behind the NRECA International fundraising campaign in 2013 that raised $120,000 to help electric co-ops in the Philippines recover from Typhoon Haiyan.
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While it isn’t unusual for American co-ops to reach across the globe to help other electric co-ops in rural communities, David Iha, KIUC and NRECA director said the experience benefitted KIUC in unexpected ways.
“It was a way for our co-op to help the families of our members, but the relationship between KIUC and these co-ops would help us too,” said Iha. “Their longevity of being a co-op for more than 40 years helped us understand what we needed to achieve.”
In addition to assisting with energy-related projects, the community in Kauai also helps improve educational opportunities for children in the Ilocos region. KIUC sponsors a book drive that provides the Ilocos elementary and high schools with textbooks. This year, as the schools in Kauai upgrade their computer hardware, KIUC also will be sending used computers to the schools.
“We truly appreciate the contributions KIUC is making,” said Dan Waddle, NRECA International’s senior vice president. “It is very clear that Kauai has created a wonderful model of support for Ilocos Norte and Sur, and this is the model of ongoing cooperative support that we really want to encourage.”
Currently, more than 300 American electric co-ops support NRECA International with time, money and materials to complement NRECA International’s work, and help co-ops like KIUC strengthen electric co-ops in rural communities around the world.