by Gerald Singer
You had to hand it to WAPA. During the night when Cat 3 Omar slipped through the Anegada Passage instead of whacking us on St. John, where we live in Chocolate Hole, we lost a little more than one minute of electricity as evidenced by our electric range-top clock that had to be bumped ahead by one short minute the next morning.
Notwithstanding WAPA’s exemplary performance Wednesday night, Virgin Islanders have been subject to an increasing amount of power outages in the last several years. Perhaps this is due to the increased demand presented by the building boom, which has not only given us many more houses, but also larger ones with more systems requiring more electricity than ever before.
The problem of not being able to supply enough electricity to meet demand is a common one throughout the Caribbean. In Santo Domingo, where outages an almost everyday affair, anyone who can afford it has a backup system, a generator or an inverter which stores electricity in car batteries and dispenses it when the power goes out. In Santo Domingo they say that the power no se va, se viene (doesn’t go out, it comes on every once and a while).
Power or Current
What do we say when the electricity stops. Interestingly, the word we use differs culturally.
Continentals will usually use the word, power, as in: “we lost power” or “the power went out.
West Indians, on the other hand will usually use the word, current, as in: “we lost current” or “did the current come back?”
Webster’s Dictionary defines power as relating to electricity as “a source or means of supplying energy,” and current as “a flow of electrical charge.”
Although I am accustomed to the word power, thinking about it, I believe I prefer the term current better.
So on Wednesday night, we had current just about all night
Electricity Rates in the Virgin Islands
Our September WAPA bill showed a rate of about 40 cents per kilowatt hour, which consisted of a Consumer Charge of seven cents/KWH and a LEAC charge of 32 cents/KWH plus other charges such as a Customer Charge, a PILOT SUR, and a WHB SURCHG, whatever these are. (The LEAC is the charge WAPA’s customers face each month to pay for the cost of fuel.)
Comparing our Virgin Islands territorial electricity costs to electricity rates in the United States we find that our .40/KWH is quite high, especially considering our proximity to the Hess refinery on St. Croix.
Within the contiguous 48 states, June 2008 prices ranged from about a little less than eight cents/KWH in Idaho to a high of 19 cents/KWH in Connecticut. Alaskans paid 16 cents/KWH and in Hawaii the rate was 32 cents/KWH.
In short, we on St. John and in the rest of the USVI pay a lot more than other Americans for electricity and for just about everything else, for that matter.