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Senate votes to bailout WAPA with funds from GERS.
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.
Vitol, the V.I. Water and Power Authority's propane supplier and creditor for WAPA's conversion from oil to propane electricity generation, cut off the propane it supplies the utility at noon Saturday. This means WAPA must use more expensive fuel oil instead and cannot use its newest, most efficient generators.
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 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.
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?
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?
The last two decades have brought a variety of proposals for the territory's energy future, but mostly all the energy that has been generated has been in the scrapping between the PSC, the Legislature and WAPA.
WAPA's issues, including debt, substantial cost overruns on the VITOL propane conversion project, and long-term non-payment of bills by government agencies, could leave U.S. Virgin Islanders in the dark.
Public Services Commission officials distanced the agency from the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority’s actions Thursday, telling lawmakers that the commission has little authority over WAPA’s unpopular contracts, and limited courses of action over the rate increases the commission is charged with regulating.
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