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Energy rebate and tax credit programs save money

Oct. 9, 2008 – Although the V.I. Water and Power Authority recently cut electric bills by an average of 18.4 percent, energy prices remain staggering. Pocketbooks are tight, but the V.I. Energy Office's rebate program and the residential energy tax credit program mean it may be just the time to invest in alternative energy.
An extension of the tax credit program was included in the economic bail out bill that passed the U.S. Congress last week. Since Virgin Islands' income taxes mirror those of the federal government, local residents are eligible.
"A lot of people were afraid they weren't going to extend it," Energy Office spokesman Don Buchanan said.
The tax credit beefs up and extends an expiring tax credit for renewable-energy projects. It extends a wind power credit for one year, extends geothermal and biomass energy credits for two years, and provides incentives to the solar industry — such as the removal of a $2,000 credit cap for residential solar installations — for eight years, until 2016.
The bailout bill also includes a tax incentive for the purchase of plug-in electric vehicles. The credit ranges from $2,500 to $7,500 for qualifying vehicles and will be available to vehicle owners, including the owners of leased vehicles.
The new provision encourages early buyers by stipulating that the credit will be phased out after the 250,000th plug-in electric vehicle is sold.
"We expect to see a lot of activity in the hybrid and electric car area within the next two years," Buchanan said.
Getting the energy tax credit is easy. Fill out the appropriate form – last year it had the number 5695 – and enter the amount on an income tax form in the section headed tax credits. It's called "residential energy credits." Form 5695 isn't any more difficult to fill out than other income tax forms. For more information before you decide to buy, the tax credit instructions are attached to the Form 5695 at the IRS website here.
To further help your bottom line, you can purchase products under the Energy Office's rebate program that resumed Oct. 1. It was on a hiatus for end-of-the-fiscal-year bookkeeping. This cycle of the program ends July 31, 2009.
Buyers can get 20 percent off the purchase price to a maximum of $600 on Energy Star appliances. These are appliances rated as energy efficient, and carry the Energy Star seal. They include room air conditioners, ceiling fans, clothes washers, and refrigerators.
Buyers of Energy Star compact fluorescent lights bulbs can get $5 off the purchase of three or more. The rebate also applies to a four-pack. Purchasers are limited to five coupons per rebate cycle.
The appliances must be purchased at Appliance Plus on St. John and Expo by Appliance Plus on St. Thomas. Call Appliance Plus at 693-9411 and Expo by Appliance Plus at 775-9411. Buchanan said he expects St. Croix dealers to come on line within the month.
Investing in alternative energy allows users to further reduce energy consumption. Rebates are available on several items. Purchasers are limited to one rebate per item per rebate cycle. They must be purchased from approved dealers.
Photovoltaic panels carry rebates of $3.50 per watt with a limit of one kilowatt.
Solar water heaters from 81 to 120 gallons in size are eligible for a $1,000 rebate. Those that hold 40 to 80 gallons carry a rebate of $700, and those 39 gallons or less are eligible for a $500 rebate.
Save 20 percent to a maximum of $3,500 on the cost of a wind turbine generator..
Purchasing a sine-wave inverter will bring a15-percent reduction in the retail price, to a maximum of $1,000. The purchase must be made in conjunction with photovoltaic or solar panels or wind generators.
Get 25 percent off the cost of an electric water heater timer. There is a limit of one.
Approved dealers on St. Croix are All Rounder Systems at 719-5500, M&M Construction at 773-1500, Solar Delivered at 718-4266, Solar Solutions at 514-4704, V.I. Solar Depot at 718-0234, and West Indies Solair at 773-4790.
On St. Thomas and St. John, purchase items at Altona Trading and Sales at 774-3373, Pangea Solar and Electric at 776-9628, Silent Power at 774-5875, Supply Resources Inc. at 775-7483, Virgin Energies at 643-1736, and West Indies Windsurfing at 775-6530.
The tax credit and rebate news comes as the Energy Office observes Energy Awareness Month with free showings of the film "Dimming the Sun." It will be held Oct. 10 at Pistarckle Theater on St. Thomas and Oct. 17 at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Croix. Both are at 7 p.m. Energy Office staff will be on hand to answer questions about how to become more energy efficient.
The Energy Office will also provide information Saturday in Cruz Bay Park on St. John. On Tuesday the office will be at the Sugar Estate Post Office on St. Thomas. On Oct. 18, the office will be at Kmart West on St. Croix and Cost-U-Less on St. Thomas. Times are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at all locations.
On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, the Energy Office will set up shop at the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce Business Expo to be held at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. said October was designated Energy Awareness Month to champion territory-wide awareness and implement energy conservation and renewable energy alternatives.
"The Virgin Islands has the great potential to benefit from the sun, wind and sea that surround us, and to maximize on these elements for the production of alternative energy sources instead of fossil fuels," the governor said in a news release.
The Energy Office has nine new fact sheets which offer specific ways that residents can cut their WAPA bill. They are available at the Energy Office's website here. Call the Energy Office at 773-1082, extension 2201.
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