Recently, the United States Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority made it known that it fears blackouts across the islands in the coming days. Vitol, the propane supplier to the island, has suspended deliveries of fuel until further notice,
The Water and Power Authority, better known as WAPA, also said in a statement that they were already in discussions with the other firms. It’s unclear whether these deals can be finalized in time. It’s a matter of time before the propane supply of the islands runs out completely. In a statement to the Virgin Islands Consortium, WAPA said that the entire propane supply would be consumed by early December at the latest.
The alternative fuels aren’t much better either. While the authority could buy diesel, this would only work for some of the territories. The St. Thomas and St. John districts could survive on diesel, but the St. Croix district couldn’t. Many of their units work only with propane, making it uncertain if they’ll be able to keep their lights on in the coming weeks. And even for the units that can use diesel, the authority does not have the funding to buy enough of it. If WAPA can’t reach an agreement between either Vitol or another company, territory-wide blackouts are almost inevitable.
WAPA though has a plan for this. Shanell Petersen, WAPA’s director of corporate communications, says that the authority would most likely install rolling blackouts in such a scenario.
“We would have to prioritize communities in most need. We would have to prioritize the hospitals, we would have to prioritize Seven Seas which makes the drinking water, and so that’s why territory-wide we would have to install rotating blackouts,” Ms. Petersen said.
As for a reason for the cut supply, there seems to be a disagreement between Vitol and WAPA. Vitol maintains that the Virgin Islands are nearly $145 million dollars behind on payments. Meanwhile, WAPA argues that they are completely up to date on their payments, and will pay for more propane as it arrives.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information about the status of this debate. Even less on how the two parties are working toward a resolution. Until more information comes, all the residents of the US Virgin Islands can do is hope that rotating blackouts won’t be coming soon.