Oct. 25, 2008 — Conservation is the key to helping solve the territory's energy crisis, but the government must look for longer-term solutions, V.I. Energy Office Director Bevan Smith said Friday.
Smith made his remarks to the three Public Services Commission members present at a three-day retreat held at the Westin Resort and Villas on St. John. It began Thursday night and concludes Saturday.
Others agreed with Smith's comments.
"We have to diversify away from fossil fuel," PSC Vice-chairman Donald Ducks Cole said.
Cole chaired the meeting in the absence of Chairman Joseph Boschulte. PSC members Verne C. David and W. Thomas Jackson also attended the Friday morning session of the retreat. Commission members Sirri Hamid and Alecia M. Wells were absent.
Using the Planning and Natural Resources Department building where his office is located as an example, Smith spoke about his frustration discovering many lights left on after employees are gone for the day.
"Our biggest challenge is changing behavior," Smith said.
His office is working on an energy policy for the government, and Smith said it will go to Gov. John deJongh Jr. by Nov. 1.
While the V.I. Water and Power Authority now allows net metering, Smith said that across the territory only five people participate. He said that part of the problems comes in the limits set by WAPA on the size of the units people can buy. The limit is 10 kilowatts.
He's urging WAPA to up the limits to 20 kilowatts for residents, 100 kilowatts for business and 500 kilowatts for schools and government buildings.
Boyd Sprehn, the PSC's outside counsel, outlined a proposal by West Indies Power that has the company tapping into geothermal energy on Saba. The company would run undersea pipes to the Virgin Islands. He said the plan hinges on the company's ability to sell power to numerous islands.
"It's only cost-effective if they can export power," Sprehn said.
Smith said he liked a plan that uses ocean thermal technology because conditions on St. Croix are perfect.
Sprehn said legislation is pending that will mandate all new buildings include solar hot water.
Joseph Daniel, energy operations coordinator at the Energy Office, had the ear of those of the meeting as he outlined what residents can do to conserve.
"Solar clothes dryer," he said.
When several people had quizzical looks on their faces, he further explained.
"A clothesline," Daniel said, also suggesting residents use a wooden clothes drying rack if a clothesline isn't feasible.
Two big energy wastes are standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open and running the air conditioner with windows open, Daniel said.
As for energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs, Daniel said if you're leaving the room to do something, turn the lights off.
"If you're leaving to get something, leave them on," Daniel said.
Smith told the Source that he plans to have an Energy Office trailer on St. John operational by the end of the year. The trailer is sitting empty with solar panels and batteries piled alongside in the public parking lot adjacent to the tennis courts. Residents have complained that the trailer takes up valuable parking spaces in parking-challenged Cruz Bay.
After David complained that the Energy Office wasn't getting the word out about its services, Smith outlined various activities that included staff setting up tables at many events and its Energy Blast newsletter.
Smith urged residents to visit the Energy Office website for more information.
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