As senators met in special session Friday to vote on a $6 million bailout for the V.I. Water and Power Authority, Public Services Commissioners convened briefly to approve an extension to a leased generator surcharge that was set to expire at the end of the month.
At a recent PSC meeting to consider WAPA’s most recent base rate petition, members not only voted against a rate increase, but approved a decrease in electric and water Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause rates, which, according to WAPA, forced its propane supplier to cut deliveries to the utility on Dec. 21. At the end of the meeting, the PSC agreed to let the surcharge, set at 3.08 cents per kilowatt-hour, expire as previously decided without implementing the base rate hike, which was also included in WAPA’s original petition.
But there was a turnaround on Friday as the PSC extended the surcharge for another three months, despite opposition from member Johan Clendinen, who said the surcharge, which is meant to cover maintenance on leased generators fueled by propane, was no longer necessary now that the supply had been cut off. Clendinen voted against the motion to extend, but others supported statements made by member David Hughes, who said that he had called the emergency meeting and put the surcharge extension on the table in light of WAPA’s strained financial state.
“These bills don’t stop because the propane stops flowing,” Hughes said. These are leased contracts and operations and maintenance contracts, and they should be properly contained within the base rate when the discussions on the base rate conclude.”
Voting in favor of the motion were Hughes, Andrew Rutnik, Kent Bernier Sr. and Raymond Williams.
Speaking after the meeting, Bernier explained that the surcharge covers maintenance costs on three Aggreko generating units leased by the authority, along with two diesel powered units on St. Thomas. Bernier said WAPA is “a responsible entity.”
“WAPA is having a substantial crisis at this time,” Bernier said. “Our position is that we are all still in a state of recovery, and we are going to work with the Senate and the administration to get WAPA back where it needs to be financially.”