As recently as two weeks ago people were heard commenting about the infrequency of power outages compared to those experienced on St. Croix in previous years. However, lately we have been forced to endure numerous lapses in electric service reminding us of the tragically fragile infrastructure of WAPA's equipment. For instance; feeder two on St. Croix has experienced seven outages in the past twelve days lasting as long as 3 1/2 hours.
WAPA is in dire need of improving both its production and delivery of electricity. This will take millions of dollars, which are currently not available. Although the VI government owes the utility millions of dollars in past due invoices for delivered services, WAPA must float bonds to cover operating expenses and routine maintenance. Some of the government agencies have made strides in eliminating their debts to WAPA but many have not.
It will be most important to replace the outgoing head of WAPA with someone who, with the assistance of the WAPA Board and the VI government, will drive WAPA into the next decade with lower cost production and a power delivery network safe from salt corrosion and storm damage vulnerability. A modernized facility located close to Hovensa, using the refinery's by-products and/or other efficient fuels, and delivering through underground conduits would eventually lower the cost and virtually eliminate the numerous outages in service. Additionally, zoning changes, permits, etc. for new development of any kind should include the provision that developers provide underground utilities to all existing and planned structures. Further, federal grants could be sought for retrofitting underground power delivery to existing buildings in the more urban areas. WAPA needs the right leadership to guide them through the difficult transitions that are so urgently needed on St. Croix and in the whole of the US Virgin Islands over the next few years. Those making the leadership decisions need to require expertise, experience, and insight rather than politics, nepotism, or approval by WAPA employees. Good luck.
In the interim, it might be useful to require WAPA to supply the local media monthly with the date, time, duration, cause, and affected area of every outage experienced. I believe everyone who pays for WAPA electricity should be entitled to this information.
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