wapa

Propane tanks sit in place high above the Harley Power Plant in Krum Bay, St. Thomas.

On April 25, 2019, the Public Services Commission (PSC) issued Order 45-2019 stating that “The PSC will grant an increase to WAPA to pay for equipment leases and training for the operation on new units.”

First, let me start by acknowledging Mr. Johann A. Clendenin for writing a dissenting opinion against the latest increase to WAPA in his position as a commissioner at the PSC.

When we think about energy, the delivery and cost associated, and its implication in the V.I., one is left wondering out loud, “What the heck is happening? What is going on with and at that outfit called WAPA?”

Over the last three months, at various intervals, there have been islandwide blackouts on each island. After each blackout it takes days for us to find out what caused the interruption in service. Eventually it comes out that “a generator tripped.”

Really?

When an instrumentality of the government issues a petition to increase service fees it sounds an alarm, because there is fallout that is associated with each increase. At times, the increases are instituted to raise revenues to cover what could have been avoided with proper planning, expertise and focus.

Case in point, WAPA’s propane project with VITOL, which escalated from $87 million initially to $160 million. Who is going to assume the cost associated with the $73 million increase? Let that sink in. A $73 million increase to a project. That is more money than it costs to operate every department within the government of the Virgin Islands, excluding Education.

In addition, residents were promised a 30 percent decrease in their LEAC, or Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause (a fee that accounts for the changing cost of fuel), once the propane project was in a place. Has anyone seen or heard of anyone receiving a reduction in the amount of 30 percent to their electricity bills?

Who is responsible and held accountable when promises are not kept, but are used as a sales pitch at the peril of poor people, the working poor and the elderly?

Last, but not least, WAPA is going to propose an additional increase between now and July 1, 2019:

• A proposed increase in the LEAC on July 1, 2019, of approximately 4 cents/kilowatt hour.

• A proposed increase in the base rate of approximately 6 cents/kilowatt hour.

Together, this will drive our rate of electricity to nearly 50 cents per kilowatt hour, which will be the highest in the nation by leaps and bounds. That is the residential rate. There is a higher rate per kilowatt hour for businesses and large businesses like grocery stores. Hotels pay an even higher rate than that.

Bringing this to the public’s attention is crucial. I dread to think about the elderly on a fixed income, or the business community that must factor into their bottom line the effects of this increase.

WAPA reported that it lost about 1,800 customers post-hurricanes Irma and Maria. I believe that WAPA increases in the coming days will increase that number dramatically.

— Clarence Payne lives on St. Thomas.