Residential electric bills and wallets will get a break following a pair of votes Wednesday by the V.I. Public Services Commission.
Commissioners and utility representatives agreed to keep the rate the utility passes on to consumers for fuel — known by the acronym Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause — fixed at its current rate until a hearing scheduled for July 31, according to a press release by commission spokeswoman Lorna Nichols.
Commissioners voted in April to increase the fuel cost from 19.26 cents per kilowatt-hour to 23.51 cents per kilowatt-hour, an increase of about 22.1%, according to PSC staff documents accompanying the LEAC presentation.
“Impact on total bills to the various customers groups range from 9.5% to 10.9% with residential customers receiving the largest percentage increase,” the report reads in part.
Following discussion with WAPA officials at Wednesday’s meeting, utility officials and commissioners agreed to keep the current rate until more information could be provided at the July hearing.
WAPA attorney Boyd Sprehn said the agreement was reached without a formal vote.
A base rate increase conditionally approved at the April 15 meeting of the PSC also appears to be tabled for the moment, given a pair of motions.
Commissioners Raymond Williams, Andrew Rutnik, Johann Clendenin, and Kent Bernier Sr. voted in favor of a motion to require WAPA to do a full financial audit of the VITOL infrastructure and operations and management contracts, and to provide full disclosure of ownership of any and all affiliates who subcontracted work for the project, according to vote totles provided by Sprehn.
Commissioner David Hughes abstained from that motion, Sprehn said.
A subsequent motion to suspend progress on the base rate application until the audit was completed was approved 5-0, according to Sprehn.
Commissioners had previously voted to conditionally approve a rate relief measure, portrayed as a temporary stop gap that would add 3.1 cents per kilowatt-hour on top of the existing base rate for some customers.
Residential customers pay one rate for the first 250 kilowatt-hours of electric usage, and a higher rate for usage over that amount. Customers who used about 400 kilowatt-hours, sometimes given as the average figure, would have seen the base-rate portion of their electric bills increase from $156.94 per month to $196.34 per month.
Consumers who used exactly 250 kilowatt-hours would see an increase in the base rate portion of their bill from $95.65 to $103.40 under the terms of the increase.
In other business, the commission voted 5-0 to grant an extension until June 30 for telecommunications company Viya to file required documents for a transfer of control.
Clendenin, Rutnik, and Bernier voted to approve a motion granting Caribbean W2E a 30-day extension to meet requirements for a power purchase agreement with WAPA. Williams voted no and Hughes abstained, according to Sprehn.
Clendenin, Rutnik and Bernier voted to approve a 60-day period for negotiations between Advance Power and WAPA, followed by a report back to the Commission. Williams and Hughes abstained, according to Sprehn.