Aug. 18, 2006 -- The Energy Assessment of U.S. Territories released by the Department of Interior last week was over 400 pages long. The V.I. Source article on this report, "452-Page Territorial Energy Assessment Released", was the most thorough written so far in the Virgin Islands media.
However, the report is a very important one for the Virgin Islands and discussion should continue on exactly what the report says and how it can be used as a tool to finding solutions to the serious energy dilemma that the Virgin Islands now finds itself in.
The report made some very positive recommendations that may prove useful. The report recommends that WAPA adopt a net metering policy. This will allow residents to install their own solar or wind energy systems and sell their excess energy back to the utility. This will go a long way in making alternative energy affordable to residents.
What it basically means is that the resident won't have to purchase expensive batteries for their system. In effect, the home owner when his system produces excess energy puts it in the bank - WAPA - and then when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing the home owner withdraws the energy from WAPA.
The report goes on to say something we all should know - solar power has excellent potential on the Virgin Islands. The report also says that wind power on the islands can be a viable option too. It cites wind studies done by the V.I. Energy Office. (See the latest results at www.vienergy.org).
The report makes a couple of intriguing proposals. It suggests that WAPA build its own small solar generating system. The system would not be large enough to offset much of WAPA's energy production, but it would make WAPA workers familiar with how solar works and give WAPA confidence in dealing with it.
This too could go a long way in helping the Virgin Islands stay at the forefront of the emerging solar energy industry. The V.I. Energy Office is always fielding calls from residents who want to know who the experts on solar energy are. If WAPA can produce a few more people knowledgeable and confident around solar technology it will be a great benefit to the islands.
The report also makes reference to a program where WAPA and the V.I. Energy Office work to help overcome the initial cost of solar water heaters for residents. This sounds like a great idea we should all work together as a community to make it happen.
What makes these programs so intriguing is that Alberto Bruno-Vega, executive director of WAPA, in announcing that this report was being compiled, said that federal money would probably follow where the recommendations go.
The Source article touched on most major aspects of the report and its recommendations that the V.I. Energy Office should continue its programs promoting energy efficiency and use of alternative energy and even expanding programs where financially feasible.
The report also gave news of which residents can be proud. It said, "This assessment found the VIEO to have the greatest capacity of all assessed island energy offices to develop energy policy and to properly deliver projects, programs and services." The report goes on that the VIEO has had a long history of getting the job done.
Also of note in the report was the mention of existing laws in the Virgin Islands. It mentions a 1984 act that "required that standards be established for government requiring that government buildings use natural ventilation and natural lighting to the greatest extent possible." The legislature in 1984 also required that all zoning regulations "recognize the need of owners of solar and wind energy devices to be able to maintain access to the resources."
The report also brings up a 1979 executive order that requires the government "to use life-cycle cost instead of first cost in purchasing vehicles." That is relevant now. With gasoline at $3 a gallon for every 10 mpg better gas mileage you get in a vehicle you save over $3,000 in the life of the vehicle. The potential savings for the government is immense.
To access and read the entire DOI document, click here..
Media Information Specialist
Virgin Islands Energy Office
Editors note:We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to email@example.com.