May 5, 2005 – Residents looking for a way to lower their electric bills came away empty-handed Wednesday night. Our Town Frederiksted hosted a meeting with Alberto Bruno-Vega, Water and Power Authority chief executive officer, at St. Gerard's Hall in Frederiksted. About 50 residents came out to hear what he had to say.
Alfonso Franklin, who serves on both the WAPA and OTF board, said in March he feels that WAPA should explain to the public why electric costs are so high. The remark was made at a board meeting where Bruno-Vega announced he was moving from St. Thomas to St. Croix. (See " WAPA Chief Relocating to St. Croix.")
Bruno-Vega came prepared with a power point presentation of graphs and charts to show why the cost of energy is so high. But residents wanted to know why WAPA has not diversified and when companies with a more cost-effective way of producing energy will come on board. Bruno-Vega reiterated several times that the company has taken "bold steps" to enter into a competitive bidding process to purchase power on a short-term basis from one or more of three alternative power-producing companies. The three companies St. Croix Renaissance Group, Caribbean Energy Resources Corporation (CERC) and Caribe Waste Technologies (CWT) have all been certified by the Public Services Commission to operate as small power producers in the territory. (See WAPA Agrees to Purchase Alternative Power.")
However, only one company is prepared to supply power relatively soon St. Croix Renaissance Group. It is the only company that already has facilities in the territory, having bought the former St. Croix Alumina Plant in 2002. The company plans to burn coal to generate electricity.
Bruno-Vega said it will take a lot for the company that is chosen to start producing power. The company would have to build a plant and meet other standards. "It could take two to three years" for residents to see reductions in their bill, Bruno-Vega said. He suggested that residents can "break away" from total dependence on WAPA by installing solar water heaters, wind turbines and replace regular bulbs with florescent. "It's the movement of the future," he said.
Several residents said this move was too little and too late. "When are we going to get relief?" Junie "Bomba" Allick asked. "When are we going to see a reduction in our bills?"
"As long as WAPA is 100 percent dependent on oil, we are victims," resident David Dillon said. Dillon suggested WAPA look into steam turbines or hydroelectric power as alternate methods of producing power.
Daryl "Mickey" Lynch, WAPA board chairman, said WAPA has already begun the process of reducing costs by sending notices to government agencies telling them to pay their overdue bill or face disconnection.
At the end of the three-hour meeting, WAPA staff distributed information on a renewable energy rebate program that offers a 20 percent discount on energy-efficient appliances.
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