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HomeNewsArchivesTalks Under Way on P.R.-V.I. Power-Sharing Connection

Talks Under Way on P.R.-V.I. Power-Sharing Connection

A project costing at least $70 million and connecting the U.S. Virgin Islands with Puerto Rico via underwater cable to share electrical power is under discussion, and could cut the overall cost of electricity in the territory.

If it works, it could be the first step in extending the grid to the rest of the Caribbean.

Delegate Donna Christensen and other U.S.V.I. officials met this week in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Departments of Interior, Energy and State to explore the feasibility of the project, Christensen reported Thursday.

Christensen obtained a $500,000 appropriation to fund a study, and she hailed the “mutually beneficial partnership.”

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“I am pleased to see that we are well on our way to the possibility of a Caribbean grid that serves the best interests of both territories today,” she said.

The talks also included executives from the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).

“The necessity of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels has never been more evident, as we closely watch the thousands of gallons of oil leaking into the gulf. But even more persuasive is the high and increasing electricity costs that all of us in the Virgin Islands have to bear,” Christensen said.

Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs for the Department of Interior Anthony Babauta said the collaboration between Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands “can change the energy future” of the Caribbean. He said the study would focus on what the true costs are, and what needs to be done to overcome obstacles.

The study was not part of the initial Energy Development in Island Nations project which is exploring the use of renewable energy in the territory. It will contribute to the overall goal of affordable, reliable clean energy for the islands, Babauta said.

Frances Colon of the State Department’s Office of Economic Policy for Environment, Science, Technology and Health, said the Puerto Rico – Virgin Islands Project could serve as a “regional model for interconnection.”

As the Caribbean Renewable Energy Strategy is developed, “the rest of the region will be looking to you,” Colon said, adding that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was supportive of the partnership.

Officials from PREPA and its nonprofit subsidiary, InterAmerican Energy Sources, said the project will initially explore the possibility of a fiber optic cable run from Fajardo, north of Culebra, to St. Thomas, because it is the closest point between the two territories and the one that the Environmental Protection Agency has determined is most environmentally friendly. They also said they had the excess electrical capacity for the project to work.

WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. said federal and private funding will be crucial to the project, initially thought to cost between $70 and $90 million. He said that in addition to the ability to obtain cheaper power from Puerto Rico, it would simultaneously increase the telecommunications and broadband capacity of the Virgin Islands, which would serve as a mechanism to attract business investment in the islands.

Also in attendance at the meeting were officials of Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner and governor.

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