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WAPA to Choose Between Wind, Waste, Coal or Oil

Nov. 30, 2005 – The V.I. Water and Power Authority in September 2004, with much fanfare, announced it had sent requests for bids from independent power producers.
Alberto Bruno-Vega, executive director for WAPA, presented a slide show in WAPA's Sunny Isles conference room and talked about how this could save WAPA money and maybe wean the utility from its dependency on oil.
On Wednesday, more than a year later, after many squabbles and delays, WAPA officials opened bids in the same conference room. There were no slide shows. The tone was subdued. There was no Bruno-Vega even. Only four bids were received. At times during the last year, Bruno-Vega said he was optimistic and suggested that as many as 30 companies might make bids on the project.
Some companies may have been scared off by all the changes made during the process.
The Public Services Commission effectively stopped WAPA's first effort by declaring that WAPA could only give a contract to a power provider that the PSC certified. The V.I. Senate got into the act and tied job creation to the awarding of the contract. Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste said the government was simply leveraging its position. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull had problems with the bill sponsored by Jn Baptiste and it went through changes.
Frank P. Wilbourne, president of Antilles Energy Cooperative, one of four companies certified by PSC, said after some of the government's maneuvering, "I wonder what ball park we are playing in today." (See "Decision on Energy Alternatives Slow in Coming".)
In the end, Antilles did not bother to submit a bid. Actually, only one of the four PSC certified companies did bid – The Renaissance Group. (See "Renaissance Makes Pitch as Power Provider".)
The Renaissance Group, located on St. Croix and already owning a power plant, proposes a coal-fired plant. Caribbean Energy, the other company certified that would burn fossil fuel, failed to make a bid for the 15-year contract.
Caribe Waste Technologies, another company certified by the PSC but again a non-bidder, had proposed using waste generated in the territory to produce energy.
One of the three newcomers introduced by the opening of bids – Wet Systems of Plant, Fla. – also proposes to convert waste to energy.
Greg Willocks, WAPA's director of Water and chief engineer, opened the bids, scanned the material and gave a quick summary of what he saw to the dozen people in attendance. He emphasized that everything he said was unofficial and was just to "give an idea" about what the bids said. He said Wet Systems planned to use solid waste from the territory to make fuel cubes that would be burned to power a steam generator. It would supply both power and water to WAPA.
The second company to turn in a bid was Environecs Engineering of San Juan. It proposes to burn diesel oil at power plant it would build.
The third company to turn in a bid was Innoventor Technology of Missouri. This company proposes to generate power using the wind. It also quoted the lowest price cited by Willocks – 9 cents per kilowatt-hour. WAPA presently charges its customer 24 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Renaissance was the last to bring in a bid package. A representative from Renaissance was seen carrying in the package just minutes before the process was declared closed.
An evaluation committee is to submit recommendations concerning an alternative power provider to the WAPA Governing Board on or before Jan. 20. The WAPA board will then forward its recommendations to the PSC before Feb. 16
WAPA anticipates issuance of a contract by March 16.
The power provider is required to be providing energy to WAPA by the end of March 2009. All bidders indicated they could make that deadline.
Cassandra Dunn, spokesperson for WAPA, said, "We appreciate the bids we got. Yes, we would have liked to have received more, but these are all solid bids."
She added that Bruno-Vega was absent because he was on annual leave.

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