April 7, 2006 – The V.I. Energy Office, in a program unique to the Virgin Islands, has given more than a half million dollars to residents since 2001. In the most recent cycle that ended in July of last year, the office gave rebates for renewable energy systems and energy-efficient appliances in the amount of $289,354. In Fiscal Year 2001-2002 the office gave out $231,723 in rebates.
Director Bevan Smith Jr. said the office paid $35,814 in rebates from April 18 through July 31 to 127 people who bought 134 Energy Star appliances. Refrigerators led the way, with residents buying 86 of them. They bought 32 clothes washers, 14 air conditioners and two ceiling fans.
More than 70 people participated in the rebate program for renewable energy systems. They purchased 391 photovoltaic panels. A total of 52 residents bought solar water heaters in the same time period.
Smith said, "Purchasing a solar water heater is a no-brainer. Yes, you have to make an investment upfront, but from then on, through the long life of the heater, you receive substantial savings on your monthly WAPA bill."
There are now five certified vendors on St. Thomas and five on St. Croix. Another cycle of rebates began in January. The office has given out $22,000 thus far this year.
The rebate program was initiated in 1990 to offset the initial costs of energy efficient and renewable energy technology products. The office estimates that it has given millions of dollars in rebates to more than 10,000 Virgin Islanders during the course of the program.
Although this program is unique to the Virgin Islands, the federal government is starting to pay more attention to energy efficient projects. In late February, the Department of Energy announced a schedule for setting new appliance efficiency standards.
The V.I. rebate program has not operated every year. The most recent year it was shut down was FY 2003-2004. Staff in the Energy Office that year noticed trends in the market and saw a need to restructure the project offerings. It was restructured and began operating again in the following fiscal year.
The present cycle of rebates is expected to last through May 31, though one year the program had to be shortened by a month because funds ran low.
Leila Muller, who monitors the program, said that when she talks to stateside energy offices, they always questioned her how the Virgin Islands manages to do it.
The program provides rebates on photovoltaic panels, solar water heaters, electric water heater timers, wind turbine generators and more.
Residential users can get a $5-off coupon to buy a three-pack of energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.
Muller can be contacted at 773-1082 ext. 2201 or by visiting the Mars Hill office. The V.I. Energy Office is a division of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
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