Wednesday, October 22, 2014

St. Croix Electricity, Water and Energy

St. Croix is the largest island in the Virgin Islands and lies about 40 miles south of the three other inhabited islands: St. John, St. Thomas, and Water Island.  The territory has a population of about 106,000. Fewer than 5,000 live on St. John and Water Island; most residents are evenly divided between St. Thomas and St. Croix.

St. Croix imports petroleum products to meet its energy needs, including electricity and desalination for its public water supply.  The economy has typically been about seven times more energy-intensive than the U.S. economy and per capita energy consumption in recent years has run as much as eight times higher than the U.S. average. Energy efficiency is low because of water desalination requirements and the predominance of small simple-cycle generators.

About two-thirds of petroleum products, in the form of No. 6 residual fuel oil and No. 2 diesel fuel, are used for electricity and water production. The remaining one-third is used almost entirely in the transportation sector, as motor gasoline, diesel fuel, and aviation fuel.

The 122-megawatt Richmond plant near Christiansted is the main generating station on St. Croix, which has its own grid. Average loads are less than half of generating capacity.  The plant is aging and needs increasingly costly maintenance and upgrading to maintain reliability.

The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA), a public-power utility, is an autonomous governmental instrumentality of the Government of the Virgin Islands.  WAPA produces and distributes electricity and potable water to approximately 55,000 electrical customers and 13,000 potable water customers. WAPA also installs and maintains street lights in the territory. As a semi-autonomous government agency, WAPA, is considered a not-for profit public corporation that contributes directly to the Virgin Islands Government's budget through an annual payment in lieu of taxes to the Virgin Islands Treasury.

WAPA operates electrical generation and water desalination and reverse osmosis units on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. Rates for electrical, potable water and street light services are regulated and set by the Public Services Commission.  The base electricity rate is reasonable at $0.09 per kilowatt hour (kWh).  But the fuel charge of $0.30/kWh makes for an extremely high electricity bill.

The Hovensa refinery supplied WAPA with No. 2 diesel fuel and No. 6 residual fuel at a small discount until the refinery closed, but, even with that discount, fuel prices rose with world oil prices. As a result, St. Croix residents have paid up to five times the average U.S. price for electricity.

Nearly one-tenth of electricity generated is used for desalination of sea water. Homes not connected to the public water supply are required to have cisterns to catch rainwater; a cistern may represent almost one-sixth of the cost of building a private home.

About one-third of electricity is consumed by the residential sector, and another one-third by large commercial power users like hotels. Nearly one-sixth of electricity goes to large industrial users like distilleries and ports. Average household consumption is about half that of the mainland United States, around 450 kilowatthours monthly. But electricity typically costs Virgin Island residents an average of 9% of their income, compared to 2% for the United States as a whole.

The V.I. Water and Power Authority began leasing ($367,000) a Seven Seas Water-manufactured Winnebago-sized water factory at WAPA's Estate Richmond power plant in 2009.  The unit is being used to assist in reliably providing part of the 1.5-million-gallon per day at the salt-water reverse osmosis plant at St. Croix's Estate Richmond power plant.  One of WAPA's several steam-based desalination plants on St. Croix needed a major overhaul and was gradually becoming less and less productive.  Instead of producing 1.2 million to 1.5 million gallons of potable water a day, it was producing only about 600,000 to 800,000 gallons.  Taking the plant offline for an overhaul would result in water shortages until the work was done. The new unit produces enough so WAPA can take each of its units offline one at a time for overhauling.  (DOE-EIA, Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority-WAPA, WAPA Sample Bill, St. Croix Source, 6/24/2019)

WAPA/EPA Consent Decree on Estate Richmond Generating Facility

Increase in Propane Tank Capacity

Energy Production Action Plan (2012)

Wastewater Treatment Plant

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