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PSC Tables WAPA Decisions for a Month

After more than two hours of discussion, a back and forth between the Public Services Commission and V.I. Water and Power Authority officials, PSC tabled the discussion until it’s next monthly meeting without taking further action.

New WAPA Generators Will Mean 100 Percent Propane, Zero Fuel Oil

The governing board of the Water and Power Authority approved several items related to the ongoing modernization of the electrical and water systems territory-wide on Thursday. According to a release from WAPA, the board approved the final terms for WAPA to enter into a contract with Wartsila North America for generators providing 36 more megawatts. The new generator generators, complete with a battery storage system, reportedly represents WAPA’s continued transformation of the Randolph Harley Power Plant, and will end the leasing of generating units once the new units are commissioned in early 2022. WAPA officials say the new generation will also allow the power plant to fully operate with the lower cost, more reliable, and cleaner burning propane fuel. WAPA Executive Director Lawrence Kupfer reportedly told board members that the entire cost of the project will be covered by federal Housing and Urban Development grant funding. “Wartsila will install four generators with a capacity of 36 megawatts. The generators will be dual-fueled, capable of burning both LPG and fuel oil. They will be owned by WAPA as is the case with the first three Wartsila units that are currently dispatching 21 megawatts of electricity to customers on St. Thomas and St. John each day. The battery storage system will provide plant stabilization during unscheduled service interruptions to ensure a timelier restoration,” Kupfer said. The cost of the project is estimated at $74.4 million. The new Wartsila units are priced at $62.4 million, and the battery storage system at $12 million. The governing board approved three projects to put critical electrical equipment underground to allow WAPA to provide a more robust restoration of service following the impact of hurricanes and other windstorm events. The projects, at critical locales on St. Croix, are federally funded through hazard mitigation grants from FEMA and HUD. The projects approved today, and one previously approved for Cruz Bay St. John, are a part of WAPA’s transformation plan. The approved projects include: Wilfred “Bomba” Allick Port and Transshipment Center at Krause Lagoon, known commonly as The Container Port. J. Benton Construction was awarded the $2.6 million contract that requires work to be completed 90 days after the issuance of a notice to proceed. Putting service underground will benefit the Gordon A. Finch Molasses Pier, Port Authority docks and warehouses, O’Neale’s Transport, and the Limetree Training School. The Midland underground project contract was awarded to V.I. Paving at a cost of $2.9 million. The project will underground facilities associated with electrical distribution feeders 6B, 9B, and 10B providing more efficient and reliable electrical service to Central High School campus and gymnasium, and to WAPA’s potable storage tank facilities. The project will also help the development of an additional feeder, 7B, and the normalization of the other three feeders. WAPA will enter into a $1.7 million contract with Vivot of St. Croix to underground facilities in the Golden Grove area. The Golden Grove prison facilities, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and the V.I. Police Department’s training school and K-9 Unit headquarters are all critical facilities that will benefit from the Golden Grove underground project. The work on all three projects will involve upgrading critical electrical equipment and putting them underground. According to WAPA, they will reduce or eliminate line loss, reduce maintenance costs and shorten restoration periods after windstorm events as equipment will not be exposed to weather impact. Car accidents will no longer be able to cause outages once the power is underground. The board also approved a change order totaling $202,337.07 to complete repairs to generating Unit 17 on St. Croix. With the unit available, the Estate Richmond Power Plant can more quickly recover from unscheduled service interruptions. The final cost of the repairs stands at $1.2 million. On the water system, the board approved the water systems master plan under which a comprehensive analysis of the water distribution system will be carried out. The analysis will determine deficiencies, future water distribution system supply requirements, and recommend system-wide improvements. The plan was last updated in 1987. The master plan development was funded through a Department of Interior grant. Kupfer said the plan is a blueprint of sorts for the water department to follow over the next 20 years to upgrade and to expand potable water service across the territory. The board approved the purchase of a crane truck for the water division and approved an increase in the project cost for the second phase of the Christiansted waterline rehabilitation project. The increase of $59,632.50 and 83-day extension will allow for the completion of the project by January 2021. The new contract cost totals $2.8 million. Once completed, customers in the Christiansted area will see improved water quality and there will be overall reduced line loss caused by aging pipelines. In other action, the board approved: The Authority’s Fiscal Recovery Plan The Finance Division’s Policy and Procedures Manual A contract extension with financial advisors, Sustainable Capital Advisors, LLC An arbitration award with the V.I. Water and Power Authority’s Employees Association Union representing rank and file employees Willis of Florida Inc. to become WAPA’s authorized broker for insurance coverage Property insurance coverage for a one-year period in an amount totaling $2.0 million inclusive of fees, taxes, and commissions. A three-year contract for the Authority’s Microsoft Enterprise Agreement The board also authorized Director Kupfer to enter into contract with the V.I. Port Authority for the purchase of real estate in Estate Nisky in the amount of $2.6 million dollars. The transaction will be a lease to own agreement. WAPA intends to construct facilities to house personnel from the Transmission and Distribution Division that were displaced by Hurricane Irma. The construction of permanent facilities on this property will be FEMA funded. In his monthly report to the board, Kupfer said there had been a roughly 8 percent reduction in generation which he attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Usually from February to March, we see an increase, however, the peak loads have been trending downwards. The pattern has continued through April and we are keeping a close eye on it,” Kupfer said. LPG remains about 36 percent cheaper than oil and propane continues to be...

Will WAPA Fuel Surcharge Stay the Same or Go Down?

V.I. Water and Power Authority filed to keep its fuel surcharge unchanged but WAPA Executive Director Lawrence Kupfer has kept open the possibility the fuel surcharge may go down, if fuel costs remain low through June or July.

Short-Term Bailout Coming To Keep WAPA Running

After a second emergency meeting on Monday, the governor and senators agreed in principle to make an emergency appropriation later this week to pay immediate past-due accounts to Vitol to restore propane supplies and keep the electricity flowing at the V.I. Water and Power Authority.

WAPA: Utility Bills Will Jump Without PSC Action on Base Rate

Without the 2.5 cent base rate hike the Public Services Commission denied on Thursday, the V.I. Water and Power Authority will default on its debt to Vitol, cutting off propane and forcing it to revert to oil, which will up the cost of fuel by 20 cents per kilowatt-hour.

WAPA’s Finances, Part 3: Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel?

WAPA is losing money and swimming in debt, with very high electricity costs. Decades of hospitals and government agencies using it an involuntary lender by not paying power bills have starved it, forcing chronic delays in maintenance and upgrades. But not all is doom and gloom.
St. Thomas' first power plant under construction, long before the creation of the Water and Power Authority in 1964. (Undated early 20th century photo provided by the St. Thomas Historical Trust)

WAPA’s Finances Part 2: A Case of Chronic Starvation

WAPA is swimming in debt. Where did it come from? What can be done about it? Some in the PSC, Senate and the public feel this debt is the result of mismanagement. Is it? And how much does it matter, if we have to pay up anyway?

WAPA Finances: Raise Base Rate and See Lower Total Rates Soon, or Pay More Forever

It will surprise no one to hear that finances at the V.I. Water and Power Authority are not good. But can it become sustainable? Is the news all bad or is there sunlight?

Is the Virgin Islands the Latest Municipality Hit by Cyber Crime?

When a top executive at the Water and Power Authority recently told a Senate committee about a $2.3 million dollar theft pulled off with a phony email, it could be seen as a red flag – a sign of cyber crime coming to the USVI.





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