WAPA making living conditions a “fight or flight” situation for residents and businesses
ST. THOMAS- It is in our best interest to resort back to candle-lit houses instead of dealing with the ever rising cost of Virgin Islands electricity. The Water and Power Authority, or WAPA, has made and continues to make living conditions in the Virgin Islands a “fight or flight” situation. Many businesses have closed because of their WAPA bill.
According to a Virgin Islands Daily News article published in June, “The V.I. Senate is finally seeking WAPA alternatives, but only after years of what many view as financial extortion.”
Not only businesses, but residents of the Virgin Islands have chosen the “flight” option in order to escape the heart wrenching WAPA bill. If only the Virgin Islands government had taken up the offer to sell it years ago, we may have been in a better position financially.
Many government officials rejected the sale of WAPA due to their inadequate ability to keep up with the current power bills.
According to a WAPA press release from the St. Thomas Source, “If WAPA were purchased by a private business, the V.I. government would actually have to pay their own power bills and would not be allowed to rack up millions of dollars in arrears and then stick us – we, the people – with their bill.”
The government has outstanding balances owed to WAPA. “The government owes approximately $20. 7 million, which is $6.4 million more than the balance owed at the same time last year. A normal paying resident who neglects paying their dues to WAPA would result in the cutting of power,” the St. Thomas Source said.
While WAPA rates continue to rise, salaries continue to stay the same at least according to us regular people.
“V.I. government and WAPA officials have known for many years that the diesel-gobbling, antiquated generators have needed attention, but what has been done – other than frequently raising our rates and raising the LEAC while we, the public, pay their salaries for their inept job performance,” a Daily News editorial said.
We, as the people, should come up with ideas to solve this money draining issue and put them in action. Luckily, some people already have implemented solutions such as solar panel installations.
Meanwhile, the University of the Virgin Islands also struggles with the ever increasing WAPA bills.”The university pays 51 cents per kilowatt hour, which in result adds up to $1.5 million a year,” UVI Energy Manager Courtney Mayes said. “We don’t get any outside funding and so we find ourselves using money from other departments.”
UVI has found small solutions helping to decrease electricity spending such as solar water heaters and light installations in every building, chillers and LED lighting. The West Hall Dorm also includes occupancy sensors that save energy by shutting off lights and air conditioning when the room is “empty.”
“Since we have gone green, we were able to use 479 kilowatt hours instead of 675 kilowatt hours,” Mayes said. “We have saved at least $99,000.”
Other solutions we can propose is to invest in another company that can give WAPA competition. This approach results in companies striving to have better prices to attract more customers. It may result in any other energy companies and WAPA competing for better rates and WAPA being eliminated.
“A total of 27 companies submitted bids in response to the utility’s request for proposals which was issued in May,” Jean Greaux, Government House spokesperson said. “The RFP sought bids from independent solar power producers.”
Until a solution that works to end WAPA’s financial hold on us is found, “last one out, turn off the lights” According to a letter written to the Daily News by Donna Pagano.