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WAPA Considers 'Plugging In' to Florida Power Supply

Dec. 16, 2005—A new component of the V.I. Water and Power Authority's energy policy could translate into big savings for residents on electric bills.
Alberto Bruno-Vega, WAPA's executive director, announced Friday he will be asking the utility's governing board for permission to explore the possibility of joining the Caribbean Electric Power Network which would allow the V.I. to purchase cheaper power from a utility in Florida.
Bruno-Vega said he first heard about the idea while attending an energy meeting in Puerto Rico. "There was an announcement made that Puerto Rico would be joining this network, and I thought since the island is so close by, we may as well tap into it," he said at WAPA's annual retreat, held this year at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Hotel.
Bruno-Vega explained to utility staff and board members about joining the network. He said a submarine high voltage direct current cable would be running power from Florida Light and Power—a utility located at the southern tip of the state—and would pass close to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, north of the Dominican Republic, and through Puerto Rico.
"Eventually, the cable will go down the Caribbean chain and down to Venezuela. It could actually serve as great connection between North and South America," he said. "But that's looking far into the future."
For right now, Bruno-Vega said Puerto Rico would be the major player in getting the network established. "We needed a big player to make this happen," he said. "Puerto is part of the U.S. as well, and once the cable is set up, the V.I. can tap in and purchase cheaper power from the stateside utility," he said. "Then the cost we save on buying electricity will be passed on to our local consumers."
In addition to saving WAPA, and local residents, money, Bruno-Vega said the new power source would mean fewer electrical outages for the territory. "Right now, if one of our units goes down, then we have to disconnect everything. But if we're part of this network, there will be no interruption at all," he said. "We may even be able to use the power as part of our daily dispatch."
Bruno-Vega said hooking up to the network would also:
–reduce the V.I.'s dependency on fuel oil.
–provide greater reliability for power distribution in the territory.
–help the local environment by generating power outside the V.I.
Despite these advantages, however, Bruno-Vega said he has not yet begun negotiations to get the V.I. involved in the Caribbean Electric Power Network. "And, after negotiations are complete, the implementation of this system would take about three to four years," he said.
Bruno-Vega also did not say if hooking up to the network would place a financial burden on the V.I. government or its consumer. "We'll know more as the process continues," he said.

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