The territory is on track to reduce its fossil fuel consumption by 2025, according to energy experts and government officials who spoke Thursday at an energy workshop at the Great Hall of UVI’s St. Croix campus.
According to V.I. Energy Office Director Karl Knight, what he originally thought would be a nearly impossible feat—to reduce fossil fuel use by 60 percent by 2025—looks like it might not be a stretch after all.
“What we’ve seen in the past year and a half, with the partnerships we have been able to create, and the dedication that UVI brought to the task, we are certain that the 60 percent mark will be eclipsed,” Knight said.
How the territory hits that 60 percent reduction is part of an ongoing pilot program that began in 2009 when the United States made the U.S. Virgin Islands its Energy Development in Island Nations (EDIN) pilot project. The project gave technical and financial assistance to help form and carry out practical strategies to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent, which was set in Feb. 2010 by Gov. John deJongh Jr.
Numerous experts from the public and private sectors, including officials from the V.I. Water and Power Authority, the V.I. Energy Office, U.S. Interior Department and the U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), were at the workshop to discuss the “USVI Energy Road Map,” designed to meet the reduction goals.
As part of the road map, EDIN-USVI has formed collaborative working groups comprised of the entities above that have been focused on five key areas: energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation, education and workforce development. Each working group gave an overview of how they are planning to reduce the fossil-fuel footprint.
WAPA employees gave the biggest presentation and largest overview. Board Chairwoman Juanita Young gave an assessment of what WAPA has done as part of the initiative. She admitted that the task was daunting at first, but knew that oil prices would continue to rise which prompted WAPA’s involvement with EDIN.
Some of the projects that WAPA is working on include:
— an interconnection study to show the advantage of connecting the territory to the electrical grids of Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands;
— a request for 10 megawatts of solar power to be installed in St. Thomas and St. Croix; and
— finalization of agreements to put up anemometers to gather wind data for the possibility of using wind turbines in the future.
“This effort with DOE and WAPA has been a successful one,” Young said. “It will put the V.I. on the right track to meeting its goal, if not exceeding it by reducing dependency on fossil fuel by 2025.”
The V.I. Waste Management Authority is also getting involved. Chief Engineer James Grum told the audience that next year the landfills will be able to generate electricity with methane gas collected from the Bovoni system. Grum also mentioned that Alpine Energy Group planned to build a refuse-derived fuel processing plant and said that VIWMA would be involve with that process as well.
“Over 1,100 homes can be powered with the energy from this,” he said.
Miguel Quiñones from the V.I. Energy Office gave an overview of what VIEO has done to reduce energy consumption, including a project that installed lighting in public schools, which will save $1 million per year for the government.
Lamar Milligan, who is in charge of WAPA’s weatherization assistance program, talked about a program aimed at improving energy efficiency for low-income families, particularly for the elderly and people with disabilities. He said their goal is to make 700 homes more energy efficient by 2012; 267 have already been completed.
WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn, who is also leading the education and workforce development working group, said that she is also convinced they will reach the 60 percent goal.
That group is collaborating with schools to teach them about clean and renewable energy. Dunn also said that social media is helping to educate the population. Her theory is that the younger generation pays more attention to social media and this type of education will ultimately lead toward a clean and green future.
“Have you liked us on Facebook yet?” Dunn asked. “Make sure you do that right away,” she said, smiling.
UVI is also doing its part, said Kathleen Davison, the program specialist for the Community Engagement Lifelong Learning. This year, they are offering more than 60 online energy training programs in an effort to get the community involved and educated about energy efficiency.
While it’s clear that that the road map has provided a lot of resources and much progress has been made, Knight wanted to lay the groundwork for the future as well. He said that EDIN-USVI wants to develop a nonprofit entity that will act as a mechanism to sustain the initiative to decrease fossil fuel consumption by 60 percent.
“You know by 2025 several public officials will come and go, and we need an entity that will sustain the project until 2025,” Knight said.
The workshop will continue Friday at UVI’s Great Hall.
For more information on the EDIN-USVI pilot project visit edinenergy.org/usvi.html.