Sept. 2, 2004 – The V.I. Water and Power Authority is requesting bids from independent power producers whether the Public Services Commission likes it or not.
On Aug. 12 the PSC ordered WAPA not to send out the requests. (See "PSC to WAPA: Don't Send Out RFP without Approval").
Thursday WAPA held a press conference announcing that it had sent out the requests Wednesday.
Alberto Bruno-Vega, executive director for WAPA, also announced at the meeting that WAPA had filed with the commission a Petition for Reconsideration of its order.
Bruno-Vega said, "We are moving forward, the order is null and void." He said the order did not follow due process. WAPA officials were not allowed to present their case before the PSC before the order was made. He also accused the PSC of trying to micromanage WAPA.
The driving force behind WAPA's efforts to get alternative energy sources, according to Bruno-Vega, is the need for the authority to diversify, get away from total dependence on imported oil and to keep the rates residents pay for power in check. He said the price of oil has dropped from its peak, but is still higher than it has historically been. He also cited the volatility of the oil market as problems in the oil-producing countries continue.
The responses are due in to WAPA by Nov. 5.
Before WAPA awards a bid, it will go to the PSC ask for it to approve the terms and conditions of the contract.
Bruno-Vega said, "The PSC has a very important role to play in due time, a judgment role. But in reality, at this time the PSC members are just a bunch of political hacks that really have no knowledge of the workings of WAPA. Their sole purpose seems to be to deflect any actions by WAPA which might cause government house to be placed in an unpopular light. They would be better advised to keep their noses out of things they know nothing about but we know that's not going to happen. Another problem is that the Government is the biggest deadbeat on our accounts receivable books. If I had my way, WAPA would be allowed to cut them off for non-payment just the same as any other customer."
The contract would be for 15 years with a five-year renewal option. The contractor would have to have its facility built and providing power by June 30 of 2009.
Bruno-Vega said it is possible that a provider will be able to be up and running before that date.
The criteria to be used by WAPA in evaluating the proposals include:
· The greatest cost benefit to rate payers
· Risk of cost increases to rate payers
· Respondent's experience in developing and operating similar projects
· Improvement to WAPA's reliability
· Guaranteed availability and capacity
· Minimum amount that WAPA has to purchase in a time period
· Technology risk
· Supplier diversity
· Impact on the environment
· Ability to meet operational dates
Requests for proposals were sent to Caribbean Energy Resources Corp., Caribbean Waste Technologies, Florida Power and Light, Renaissance Group, Energy Management Inc., West Indies Power and Sea Solar Power International.
Requests were also advertised in local news media including The Source (See Legal Advertisement ).
The PSC has 30 days in which to reply to the Petition to Reconsider. Bruno-Vega said if the PSC did not reconsider its order, there would be no choice for WAPA but to take the PSC to court. He said the order was simply one government body trying to usurp the power of another government body.
Valencio Jackson, chairman of the PSC, said he would reserve comment until after he had a chance to read the petition.
To make sure only serious proposals are received WAPA is requiring a nonrefundable check of $20,000 to accompany each one.
Bruno-Vega said preparing the request for proposals and then reviewing those received would be a very expensive task for WAPA.
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