A "Flip the Switch" protest of high energy costs and the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s system of charging for the fuel it burns to generate power appears to have fizzled.
"The people of the United States Virgin Islands will stand in solidarity against the tyranny of the administration, the PSC and WAPA and turn off all lights and electrical appliances on 11/11/11," V.I. Green Party officials said on their website. "This course of action will send a message to our leaders that we will not be held hostage economically for a basic need.
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, who ran for the Legislature in 2010 promising to "eliminate the LEAC," the section of WAPA bills that itemizes the cost of the fuel oil it uses to run its generators, also promoted the "Flip the Switch" protest.
But, whether because people did not endorse the protest or just because they are too attached to their electrical appliances, the effort had no measurable impact on consumption, according to WAPA officials.
"We peaked at about 70 megawatts on ST and about 45 on St. Croix today," WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn said Friday evening. "That is usual for holidays and weekends," she said. Weekends and holidays have lower usage than weekdays as a rule, she said. Of course Friday was Veterans Day, so any drop in usage because of intentional protest actions may have been drowned out by the broader holiday-based drop-off. The previous day, consumption peaked at about 55 megawatts on St. Croix and about 81 megawatts on St. Thomas, according to Dunn.
Like many island communities, the territory’s power plants run on fuel oil, which has skyrocketed in price in recent years, causing the price of water and electricity to skyrocket too. Many V.I. residents are frustrated about the cost and question why the territory’s government-owned utility did not wean itself off oil long ago. Some blame WAPA for charging for the fuel it uses, saying the base rate is "usage" and the fuel cost is an unfair extra charge that can be avoided by legislation, loans, renegotiating fuel costs with the Hovensa refinery or other quick actions.