WAPA files feed-in tariff petition

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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Water and Power Authority has filed a petition for a feed-in tariff rate to comply with the Feed-in Tariff Act that the V.I. Senate passed in May.

It is just one of the steps that the territory is making to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and diversify its means of energy creation, according to Sen. Craig Barshinger, who sponsored the original bill.

The Feed-in Tariff Act allows WAPA customers to sell their independently created renewable energy to WAPA, which in turn is required to purchase the energy at a fair and reasonable price, according to Barshinger's legislation.

The customers are able to earn money at a rate determined by the V.I. Public Services Commission based on WAPA's avoided costs resulting from a producer's independent creation of renewable energy, according to the law.

In the petition WAPA submitted this week for Public Services Commission approval, the utility proposed that it pay the avoided cost, minus an additional 5 percent discount, to the energy supplier.

Citing a cost-analysis study, WAPA is suggesting that it pay 25 cents per kilowatt-hour to the supplier in 2014, and then 17 cents to the supplier the following year.

It is customary for a utility to reduce the rate over an extended period of time, but Barshinger said he is not thrilled at the 17-cents figure suggested earlier this week.

"It's absurd," Barshinger said, explaining that WAPA should be trying harder to "close the gap" between the feed-in tariff rate and the net-metering rate.

A program similar to the feed-in tariff, known as net-metering, allows renewable energy producers to also create their own energy and earn a reward for doing so, though it is in a different form.

Net-metering, though not a sustainable practice for the entire territory, was meant to entice more people to adopt renewable energy practices.

Net-metering producers earn credit on their WAPA bills at the retail rate, currently 51 cents per kilowatt hour, said WAPA spokeswoman Jerain Fleming.

Net-metering never allows the customer to make money, unlike feed-in tariff customers. Net-metering customers receive credit to offset their WAPA consumption, while feed-in tariff customers earn money back, but at a lower rate.

Barshinger said that his next step regarding energy legislation is to move to ensure that during certain times when energy is more valuable - such as during an emergency situation or during the daytime when everyone is using it - feed-in tariff customers could get compensated at a higher rate.

Such an effort would enable the territory's utility, and customers, to enjoy fewer power outages and shortages, he said.

Long-term, net-metering could disable the territory's utility, but the feed-in tariff could strengthen it, according to Barshinger.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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