April 30, 2009 -- A series of public meetings will help the Virgin Islands Energy Office determine how to use $31 million allocated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The hearings will be held on each of the main islands in their respective senate buildings. Each will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with the St. Croix hearing on Tuesday, St. Thomas on Wednesday and St. John Thursday.
At each, the Energy Office staff will make a short presentation, and then be available to take comments and answer questions.
The funds are divided in three categories State Energy Program, $20.7 million; Weatherization Assistance Program, $1.4 million; Energy Efficiency Conservation Block grants, $9.6 million.
The stimulus act which gives preference to activities that can be started and completed expeditiously has several goals.
-- To preserve and create jobs and promote recovery.
-- To assist those most impacted by the recession.
-- To provide investments needed to increase economic efficiency by spurring technological advances in energy.
According to Don Buchanan, media information specialist for the Energy Office, the funds give the island a chance to jump start energy programs on the island while enhancing job possibilities. The hearings will help give the office a direction for using those funds, he said.
"The main thing is we want to hear people give us some direction," he said. "We're trying to find what will work best for the residents."
At the same time, he added, the hearings will let residents know what programs are out there and how they might be ablto take advantage of them.
The Weatherization Assistance Program is designed to increase the energy efficiency of dwellings owned or occupied by people with low incomes, reduce their expenditures for energy and improve their health and safety. The program is aimed at people who are particularly vulnerable, such as the elderly, people with disabilities, families with children, high residential-energy users, and households with low incomes.
The goals of the State Energy Program are:
-- Increase energy efficiency to reduce energy costs and consumption for consumers, businesses and government,
-- Reduce reliance on imported energy,
-- Improve the reliability of electricity and fuel supply and the delivery of energy services, and
-- Reduce the impacts of energy production and use on the environment.
The Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grants will focus on the development and implementation of energy efficiency practices. This effort will include building audits, financial incentives, grants to government and non-profit agencies, and programs to conserve energy in transportation.
This is the first year the Virgin Islands has been eligible for grant money under the Weatherization program. It is expected that funding will continue on an annual basis. However, the rest of the funds are just a one-time effort.
According to Buchanan, the territory is under some time constraint. If the funds aren't committed within a few months, they could be lost, he said.
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