WAPA (Electric Power) in the Virgin Islands
Unfortunately, the state of our Virgin Islands electric power grid has been quite poor for a very long time. Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused widespread destruction, downing a large percentage (almost all) utility poles and/or lines. Depending upon where you reside, power was out for nearly six months. But despite what you may have read from the US news media, the Federal Government made restoring power a high priority, and was able to work with the local Government to expeditiously rebuild this infrastructure. I could not be happier with the attention the island was given towards putting up new poles and lines. The various Stateside companies that came down to work on this were incredible- they worked really long days everyday to get this work done. I understand that most people not as familiar with the island may think that is a really long time, but the amount of work that was completed is incredible under very tough circumstances- steep windy roads and rock solid ground make this work very difficult.
The problems with WAPA (Water and Power Authority) did not start with the hurricanes. The utility has been beyond subpar for as long as I remember. Not only have they proved to be extremely unreliable, but the costs are extraordinary. Our electric rates are higher than any location I have ever seen, and significantly higher (many multiples) than any place I have seen in the States. But also as expensive or more expensive than any other island in the Caribbean. Frankly, it is not just discouraging, but totally unacceptable.
The problem as you can probably guess, is not from the storms. The problem is not because we don't have poles and wires in place. The problems are from management, which has been extremely weak for decades. The generators we have used are now extremely old. Newer generators we have leased has not fixed our issues. Previous management made strides in converting our generators to be able to run off natural gas instead of oil, which appeared it would decrease our consumer costs significantly over time. Then once we made the switch, WAPA defaulted on payments to the company providing the gas and we would have to switch back to the old more expensive fuel. The horrible economic situation with the company doesn't allow us to issue bonds beyond extremely high paying ones that put us further into debt. It is a total mess, and continues to be a thorn in the side of the entire territory.
So where do things stand at the moment? Frequent power outages is an understatement. We may go a week or even more without one, but may also have several in a day. Some may last minutes, others may last hours. It has become a regular part of life for the masses. It doesn't even phase us anymore. Unfortunately, it does bother island guests/visitors, which is bad for our economy.
Homeowners have increased purchases of solar systems, many accompanied by a battery backup system like a Tesla Powerwall battery. This is what I have at my home, and is the best investment I have ever made. It allows seamless transition to power when it goes out, is totally silent, and allows your power to continue as if it never even went out. But these systems are not inexpensive, and are not feasible for all island residents. If you have any interest in this subject, feel free to reach out and I would be happy to put you in touch with the incredible company we have worked with. They do a great job and I could not be happier with their services.
Hopefully WAPA will get its act together someday. I personally think we must privatize it. I just don't know anyone that would want to purchase such a poorly run company with failing infrastructure in place. If you have any ideas, feel free to pass them along.