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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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WAPA Is Owned by the People

Dear Source:
The WAPA increases are a direct result of the government's refusal to see into the future or correct the problems WAPA is having. There is absolutely no incentive for WAPA to change the way it does business because it has no competition and thus, no will to do so.
There so many disparities in the way WAPA performs and it always costs the ratepayer. It cannot be all brought up on a small forum like this but here are a few:
1. The process of creating water requires huge amounts of electricity. WAPA, being the only provider of power and water, cannot charge itself for this massive power need. The consumer pays for it. The same oil that creates steam and turns the WAPA turbines for which we pay a high premium is also used to create water. Then, WAPA turns around and charges more for water and charges the ratepayers for the electricity used to produce it. The fact is, we pay for the materials and then they charge us again for the same product. Another large issue is that many ratepayers never get to use the water because they are not piped in to the system yet still pay to produce it.
2. The condition of the WAPA distribution system is deplorable. Line losses alone make up a large portion of the energy WAPA creates and some of that energy goes right down the toilet. Cheaters are included in line losses as are poorly maintained residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems. In effect, WAPA puts out power that we pay for and it goes right back to mother earth 24/7. WAPA should clean up its own house by insisting that WAPA, and all government installations, turn off their lights after hours, yet they blaze away all night long. We pay for that!
3. The government owns WAPA? Somewhere in the past, before anyone even thought about the fact of obscene oil cost increases, someone in government may have thought that if we own the plant, then the electricity is ours to do with what we want. Wrong! WAPA is not owned by the government, it is owned by the people. In that regard, the use and methods we employ concerning anything the people own lies squarely in the hands of the legislature as our representatives. The WAPA board is filled with citizens who don't have a clue about what needs to be done to correct our insane use of oil. The legislature has done nothing which would alleviate the burden we have had to endure and are facing today. The people of the Virgin Islands are crying out for action but none comes–why? As our elected representatives, only the legislature can be the impetus for change. They have failed us miserably when it comes to energy. At least this Governor is attempting to move toward change.
4. Aside from poor management and operation of the generating stations, there are other areas of mismanagement that sometimes people forget about. WAPA's distribution system and the administration of it, is in chaos. If we think about a service being rendered, we can reasonably agree that any service provider would want to make the sale quickly so that a profit can be made. Not so with WAPA. For residential users, in order to get power turned on to a new home, several WAPA requirements must be met. One needs to present a deed, submit or have submitted a Certificate of Occupancy from DPNR and pay a fee. This then gives a new owner the right to have WAPA inspect the property's electrical service to see if it conforms to WAPA standards. If a WAPA engineer approves, then the new owner may get a meter in say, a month in a perfect WAPA world. Overall, this process could take months and I have witnessed people waiting over a year to get a meter even though all the paperwork was properly provided, fees paid and an order issued. One would think that WAPA would plug that meter in as quickly as possible so that it can start making a profit immediately. Not so with WAPA. By the way, this so-called "inspection", for which WAPA charges a fee, is illegal according to Virgin Islands law. The only authority which may make judgments concerning the electrical suitability of any electrical installation is DPNR. In fact, the National Electrical Code, which the government of the Virgin Islands accepts by reference and law, specifically disallows any utility company to make judgments on an electrical system. That's the wiring inspector's job by law. Yet we have a whole department within WAPA which does nothing but inspect systems that have already been legally inspected and passed by the authority having legal jurisdiction.
5. Commercial businesses have to go through a field inspection mandated by WAPA in order to get a meter turned on. This inspection is completed by a licensed electrician who gets a fee for the service. Once that report is submitted, WAPA then sends their own engineer out to verify that the electrician was, in fact, correct in his or her calculation! Oh, and also charges a fee. This all done so that WAPA can figure out what the average monthly income would be and then charges the customer two months fee as a down payment. What a waste of time, money and effort. Not to mention the lack of revenues which WAPA could have collected if the system was made simpler and the meter was plugged in sooner. Imagine going into a store and have to show an ID in order to buy milk then be asked to pay a fee for the privilege of entering the store. Make the sale!
6. WAPA has over 400 employees in the line distribution section alone. This equates to approximately one line worker for every 3000 people. Three times the number of workers by stateside standards. Why does an entire crew (usually 4 or more) of WAPA workers have to be present while watching one worker make a repair or installation? Why are there far fewer meter readers than line workers? Who pays for the fuel when a WAPA vehicle sits idling all day during a repair or installation? Efficiency and customer service should be the motto of WAPA yet we pay the highest cost for electricity and get poor and sometimes arrogant service.
It is abundantly clear that WAPA exists to provide power but also to create jobs, whether or not those jobs are needed. This is true because it is run by the government. It is also clear that WAPA is inefficient, overcharges its customers and, as a government employer, seeks to maintain the status quo and disregard innovation. The Senate will never take action to eliminate jobs or to bring in competition because it may lose a favorable voting bloc of government workers. There is much more to our energy woes than just oil prices. We now know that only the legislature can help Virgin Islanders. Let's see what happens this election year.

Paul Devine
St. John

Editor's 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 source@viaccess.net.

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Dear Source:
The WAPA increases are a direct result of the government's refusal to see into the future or correct the problems WAPA is having. There is absolutely no incentive for WAPA to change the way it does business because it has no competition and thus, no will to do so.
There so many disparities in the way WAPA performs and it always costs the ratepayer. It cannot be all brought up on a small forum like this but here are a few:
1. The process of creating water requires huge amounts of electricity. WAPA, being the only provider of power and water, cannot charge itself for this massive power need. The consumer pays for it. The same oil that creates steam and turns the WAPA turbines for which we pay a high premium is also used to create water. Then, WAPA turns around and charges more for water and charges the ratepayers for the electricity used to produce it. The fact is, we pay for the materials and then they charge us again for the same product. Another large issue is that many ratepayers never get to use the water because they are not piped in to the system yet still pay to produce it.
2. The condition of the WAPA distribution system is deplorable. Line losses alone make up a large portion of the energy WAPA creates and some of that energy goes right down the toilet. Cheaters are included in line losses as are poorly maintained residential, commercial and industrial electrical systems. In effect, WAPA puts out power that we pay for and it goes right back to mother earth 24/7. WAPA should clean up its own house by insisting that WAPA, and all government installations, turn off their lights after hours, yet they blaze away all night long. We pay for that!
3. The government owns WAPA? Somewhere in the past, before anyone even thought about the fact of obscene oil cost increases, someone in government may have thought that if we own the plant, then the electricity is ours to do with what we want. Wrong! WAPA is not owned by the government, it is owned by the people. In that regard, the use and methods we employ concerning anything the people own lies squarely in the hands of the legislature as our representatives. The WAPA board is filled with citizens who don't have a clue about what needs to be done to correct our insane use of oil. The legislature has done nothing which would alleviate the burden we have had to endure and are facing today. The people of the Virgin Islands are crying out for action but none comes--why? As our elected representatives, only the legislature can be the impetus for change. They have failed us miserably when it comes to energy. At least this Governor is attempting to move toward change.
4. Aside from poor management and operation of the generating stations, there are other areas of mismanagement that sometimes people forget about. WAPA's distribution system and the administration of it, is in chaos. If we think about a service being rendered, we can reasonably agree that any service provider would want to make the sale quickly so that a profit can be made. Not so with WAPA. For residential users, in order to get power turned on to a new home, several WAPA requirements must be met. One needs to present a deed, submit or have submitted a Certificate of Occupancy from DPNR and pay a fee. This then gives a new owner the right to have WAPA inspect the property's electrical service to see if it conforms to WAPA standards. If a WAPA engineer approves, then the new owner may get a meter in say, a month in a perfect WAPA world. Overall, this process could take months and I have witnessed people waiting over a year to get a meter even though all the paperwork was properly provided, fees paid and an order issued. One would think that WAPA would plug that meter in as quickly as possible so that it can start making a profit immediately. Not so with WAPA. By the way, this so-called "inspection", for which WAPA charges a fee, is illegal according to Virgin Islands law. The only authority which may make judgments concerning the electrical suitability of any electrical installation is DPNR. In fact, the National Electrical Code, which the government of the Virgin Islands accepts by reference and law, specifically disallows any utility company to make judgments on an electrical system. That's the wiring inspector's job by law. Yet we have a whole department within WAPA which does nothing but inspect systems that have already been legally inspected and passed by the authority having legal jurisdiction.
5. Commercial businesses have to go through a field inspection mandated by WAPA in order to get a meter turned on. This inspection is completed by a licensed electrician who gets a fee for the service. Once that report is submitted, WAPA then sends their own engineer out to verify that the electrician was, in fact, correct in his or her calculation! Oh, and also charges a fee. This all done so that WAPA can figure out what the average monthly income would be and then charges the customer two months fee as a down payment. What a waste of time, money and effort. Not to mention the lack of revenues which WAPA could have collected if the system was made simpler and the meter was plugged in sooner. Imagine going into a store and have to show an ID in order to buy milk then be asked to pay a fee for the privilege of entering the store. Make the sale!
6. WAPA has over 400 employees in the line distribution section alone. This equates to approximately one line worker for every 3000 people. Three times the number of workers by stateside standards. Why does an entire crew (usually 4 or more) of WAPA workers have to be present while watching one worker make a repair or installation? Why are there far fewer meter readers than line workers? Who pays for the fuel when a WAPA vehicle sits idling all day during a repair or installation? Efficiency and customer service should be the motto of WAPA yet we pay the highest cost for electricity and get poor and sometimes arrogant service.
It is abundantly clear that WAPA exists to provide power but also to create jobs, whether or not those jobs are needed. This is true because it is run by the government. It is also clear that WAPA is inefficient, overcharges its customers and, as a government employer, seeks to maintain the status quo and disregard innovation. The Senate will never take action to eliminate jobs or to bring in competition because it may lose a favorable voting bloc of government workers. There is much more to our energy woes than just oil prices. We now know that only the legislature can help Virgin Islanders. Let's see what happens this election year.

Paul Devine
St. John

Editor's 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 source@viaccess.net.