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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, March 22, 2023


Feb. 18, 2004 – The Public Services Commission voted on Wednesday to suspend action on the Water and Power Authority's petition for an 8 percent increase in the "levelized energy adjustment clause" surcharge on customers' monthly bills.
The LEAC, which is subject to recalculation every six months, is based on the price WAPA must pay for oil on the world market.
"We are not recouping our fuel cost," Glenn Rothgeb, WAPA chief operating officer, told the commission on Wednesday. He said the authority's cost for oil is expected to rise to $32.44 a barrel by April.
But, Rothgeb added: "The real issue here is the amount of money we have already bled."
WAPA's executive director, Alberto Bruno-Vega, said customers have been underbilled for many months.
The PSC chair, Valencio Jackson, looked at the matter from another angle — that of ongoing water and power losses sustained by the utility within its delivery systems. "When we see losses like what we see in St. Croix, you are saying to us that you don't need the money," he told the WAPA officials.
Line losses of both water and electricity are high in the territory. Currently line losses represent 15.83 percent of output on St. Croix and 9.51 percent on St. Thomas, according to a report by Georgetown Consulting Group, the PSC's technical consultants for WAPA. The national average for line losses is between 5 and 6 percent, the report stated.
And according to the report, the "loss item is costing ratepayers $3 million a year."
Bruno-Vega said on Wednesday that the authority is taking steps in both districts to reduce its line losses due to technical problems and to theft. But some line loss is inevitable, he said.
WAPA is constructing new feeders and purchasing new transformers that are "completely self-protected," he told the commission, and it is "aggressively pursuing" a campaign against meter tampering.
The authority currently is airing radio and television spots that focus on increased fines for meter tampering. Anyone found to have tampered with a meter is now facing a WAPA-imposed fine of $500, up from the previous $150, plus having to pay for the estimated amount of electricity or water used illegally.
Criminal penalties also have increased for meter tampering as a misdemeanor. Those convicted of the crime can be fined from $1,000 to $5,000 for the first offense and from $3,000 to $10,000 for subsequent offenses.
Bruno-Vega said WAPA also increased its in-house incentive to reward employees who report meter tampering — to $100 per instance from the previous $10.
"On both islands we are working aggressively to address line losses," he told the commission. "We want to bring St. Croix to at least where St. Thomas is."
Sen. Luther Renee, one of two non-voting legislators who sit on the commission, asked Bruno-Vega why the line losses on St. Croix are so much higher.
Bruno-Vega explained that electrical transmission on St. Thomas is of 34,000 volts, while on St. Croix it is of 24,000 volts. On St. Croix, he said, "since the voltage is lower, the current is higher, and line losses will be higher."
In terms of line theft, Bruno-Vega added, "maybe it's because of the economic situation on St. Croix — people are getting more creative."
PSC member Jerris Browne moved that the commission suspend consideration of WAPA's LEAC petition for up to eight months, and that the matter be discussed again at the commission's April meeting. The motion passed on a vote of 4-2, with Browne, Jackson, Desmond Maynard and Alric Simmonds voting in favor and Verne David and Alecia Wells voting against.
Money WAPA owes the PSC in assessments also was discussed at the hearing. Bruno-Vega told the commission that the utility had submitted a cash-flow statement, as had been requested at the PSC's last previous meeting, on Feb. 6. (See "Phone company given Feb. 13 deadline to pay PSC".)
All voting commission members were present Wednesday: Browne, David, Jackson, Maynard, Simmonds and Wells; along with Renee. Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone, the other non-voting legislative member, was not present.
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