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HomeNewsLocal newsAmidst Uncertain Fuel Costs, Generator Hangups, LEAC Stays the Same

Amidst Uncertain Fuel Costs, Generator Hangups, LEAC Stays the Same

The transformer is pictured as WAPA personnel moved Wartsila components from the Crown Bay Homeport Dock through Sub Base to the Randolph Harley Power Plant on June 4, 2022, on St. Thomas. (Photo courtesy WAPA)

The V.I. Water and Power Authority is not raising its electric LEAC or water LEAC through June 30 this year. However, there is concern about the current rate driving WAPA into further debt and whether that debt can be called a collectible asset.

In a report to the Public Services Commission Tuesday recommending the continued electric LEAC of 22 cents, Jim Madden of Georgetown Consultants said the rate was “substantially below” what WAPA needed to cover its fuel costs.

He also mentioned “deferred fuel costs.”

Commission Vice Chairman David Hughes objected to the discussion of deferred fuel. He said the $18 million referred to as “deferred fuel” might disappear when the PSC has the opportunity to examine WAPA’s audits of the last three years.

He said the PSC might call the $18 million “over expenditures.”

WAPA CEO Andrew Smith told the commission that the propane price had increased significantly in January and February.

Another uncertainty in the LEAC discussion was the state of the Wartsila generators. In July 2020, WAPA signed a contract with Wartsila to procure and install four new generators and a battery storage system for the Randolph Harley Power Plant. The generators, which are highly efficient and projected to save WAPA fuel costs, arrived on St. Thomas in June 2022, and it was expected they would be online in March 2023.

Four new generators have not gone online at the Randolph Harley Power Plant. (Submitted photo)

In response to questions from Sen. Carla Joseph, ex-officio member of the commission, Madden said he had no idea when the four generators would go online. He said work had stopped on their installation in January because of a cost dispute.

Four U.S. Congressmen published a letter in November of 2022 calling for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to investigate how WAPA spent $75 million in grant money to get new power generators online after the hurricanes of 2017. The focus of the argument is that the project is behind schedule.

During the Tuesday meeting, the commission approved four applications for eligible telecommunications carriers. The stateside corporations are Terracom, Tempo Telecom, Air Voice, and IM Telecom. The approval will allow them to offer Lifeline services with a discount to eligible low-income consumers on their mobile phones or landlines.

Commissioners Pedro Williams, David Hughes, Clement “Cain” Magras, Laura Nichols-Samms, and Raymond Williams attended Tuesday’s meeting. Ex-officio members Sen. Joseph and Sen. Marise C. James were also in attendance.

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