St. Thomas 𑁋 There are a few things you should know today if you are joining the early morning protest residents have organized against the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) on St. Thomas. The protest begins at 10:00 a.m. outside the Public Service Commission’s office in Barbel Plaza.
The Public Service Commission is expected to vote on WAPA’s request this morning as well.
1. There Will be a Rate Increase But Your Bill Won’t Change
The St. Thomas – St. John Chamber of Commerce has acknowledged that WAPA is petitioning for a base rate increase by $.03 while at the same time reducing the LEAC by the same amount (which means that customers will not have to absorb the costs and bills will remain unchanged) in order to gain access to more favorable capital markets to facilitate debt refinance.
The increase will allow WAPA to court investors and invest in new infrastructure. Base rates are required to be reviewed every few years according to Virgin Islands law — the last adjustment was in 2017.
2. The STT-STJ Chamber of Commerce has Voiced Concerns About WAPA’s Stability
The St. Thomas – St. John Chamber of Commerce has voiced concerns about WAPA’s financial stability and the likelihood of economic decline if the power company is allowed to receive future rate increases at the expense of residents. The STT-STJ Chamber of Commerce’s full statement can be viewed below:
3. WAPA is $500M in Debt and May Suffer a $30M Operating Loss in 2020
To date, WAPA is drowning in an estimated $500 million in debt with short-term projections showing that it could also incur a $30 million loss in 2020. WAPA’s cash bleed is largely due to the hurricanes that shuddered many businesses and large resorts throughout the territory. The Chamber has also attributed the loss to a rise in solar power installation on each island as residents and businesses try to diversify their energy sources and reduce their WAPA bills.
4. The VI Government Owes WAPA $22M in Utility Bills
The Virgin Islands Government owes WAPA and estimated $22 million in utility bills. The Virgin Islands Government has remained current with payments to WAPA since mid-2018, also paying down hospital utility bills that were outstanding.
5. WAPA Says it “Intends” to Keep Rates at 43 Per Kilowatt-hour Throughout 2019
The power company has said that it “intends to hold the current rates through the end of 2019,” also emphasizing that the rate change will not require residents to pay more on their utility bills.
6. WAPA Will Begin Work on a Brand New Electrical Grid in 2020
WAPA will begin a number of major initiatives in 2020 as federal funds become available and projects set to improve infrastructure begin to rollout. In 2020, WAPA expects to fully utilize smaller, efficient, propane generators along with additional energy sources like solar and wind for more affordable prices for customers and businesses.
Editor’s note: in a story earlier this week, we stated that the Public Service Commission was expected to release a statement about WAPA’s rate increase. The error was fixed noting that the St. Thomas – St. John Chamber of Commerce was expected to release a statement.
Featured image courtesy of the Virgin Islands Consortium.