Sept. 29, 2006 — Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has proclaimed October as Energy Awareness Month. Virgin Islanders have two reasons to pay close attention to the energy they consume money and environment.
After months of skyrocketing energy prices, residents received a break on their energy bills in the last couple of weeks. However, few serious analysts of energy costs believe the relief will last long.
The economics of energy consumption are simple. Here is just one example. A resident replacing an incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb will save over $100 during the lifetime of that bulb. The flourescent uses one-fourth the power that the incandescent does and the WAPA killowatts to burn that light are not cheap. The V.I. Energy Office has other tips on how to cut down energy consumption.
The second benefit of energy efficiency or using renewable energy resources is a cleaner environment. There has been a series of reports and films documenting the detrimental effect the burning of fossil fuels is having on our planet.
The resident who keeps his tires properly inflated and cuts down his gas consumption isnt going to see the benefits to the environment immediately, but the resident can rest satisfied that she is helping save our environment for her children.
Residents of St. Croix this season have the opportunity of gaining some insights into what individual effort can do to help clean up the environment by attending the St. Croix Environmental Associations film series on Global Warming.
The series at the UVI St. Croix campus started on Sept. 22. The second film Dimming the Sun will be presented on Oct. 27 and the series will end with former Vice President Al Gores "An Inconvenient Truth" on Dec. 8 in the Student Center theater at 7 p.m.
For those who want to find information from their home, the Internet is a great resource. A visit to the V.I. Energy Offices website at www.vienergy.org is a good place to begin that trip.
V.I. Energy Office, which is a division of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, has over recent years helped residents focus efforts at utilizing clean alternative energy. We have reached a critical stage where those efforts can make a great leap forward.
At the end of September, I made a presentation to the Public Services Commission concerning net metering. Net metering is not going to take away all WAPAs problems, nor is it going to make any residents rich by selling energy they produce to WAPA.
What net metering does is make the development of small solar and wind projects more economically feasible. In the simplest context it means that, if you decide to generate electricity say by solar means, you can bank the excess power you generate during the day with WAPA for use at night. This small step forward can mean a 30-percent reduction in the overall cost of renewable energy systems for a typical household by bypassing the need for a battery bank. Hence, private investment in the solar/wind at the household level will be more cost effective.
Already 40 states have developed the process to let this happen. There is no reason why the Virgin Islands, which has some of the best sunshine in the world, should be the last one entering this field.
Debate has arisen that some residents will benefit more from net metering than others. That is just conjecture and the results of the effort will be so beneficial to the islands as a whole that it should not be a concern. The resident banking power with WAPA will never collect money from WAPA. That is not the motive here.
The idea, as proposed by the V.I. Energy Office, is that at the end of the year, if the resident has supplied more power to WAPA than WAPA has supplied to the resident, the slate is wiped clean. WAPA is never charged for the power.
Many proposals are out there to reduce WAPAs rates, but one has to wonder if they are not all pie-in-the-sky wishes. Fossil fuel is costly, it has to be imported to the Virgin Islands, and its use, because of Global Warming, may soon be taxed excessively. Complaining about WAPA is not going to change those facts.
Many V.I. residents have been pioneers in getting clean energy to work for them. With net metering, more residents will be able to afford clean energy. As the agency responsible for the planning, oversight and coordination of energy systems, the Energy Office will expand its energy education efforts, technical assistance and financial incentives to encourage all residents to install some degree of renewable energy technology in their homes.
During October, Energy Awareness Month, I urge you to contact members of the Public Service Commission, the WAPA board of directors and your legislators to urge action to make net metering happen.
We also encourage you to attend the many community events that the V.I. Energy Office will be sponsoring this month. To find out more information about the V.I. Energy Offices programs and events, call us at 773.1082 on St. Croix or 774.3320 on St. Thomas. Residents again can also find information about program, events, and grants at our web site.
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