While Americans were bawling about $3 per gallon gasoline, residents of the Virgin Islands were paying nearly $5 per gallon (except on St. Croix, where prices are always lower due to the presence of the HOVENSA oil refinery). Prices have settled down a bit, but the cost of diesel, gasoline, cooking gas, and other related products is still very high in the islands.
You might think that this, combined with the incessant tropical sun and healthy trade winds, would have led to the development of a forward-thinking alternative energy system. It has not. Instead, residents of both territories are left paying extremely high prices for electricity, gasoline, and anything (such as frozen or refrigerated goods) that requires a great deal of energy.
There are a few glimmers of hope on the horizon. The USVI Water and Power Authority has invested in a small alternative energy program, and residents there can also take advantage of a federal solar roof initiative. In the BVI, however, policy-makers have continued with an utterly incomprehensible policy that not only fails to reward residents for but actually forbids them from setting up their own power generating system, such as a solar or wind power system at their homes, as long as the power grid is available to them. The final insult is that the BVI Electricity Corporation does not have the capacity to meet the BVI’s growing power needs, so power outages are frequent.
Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson, owner of Necker and Mosquito Islands, is building an eco-resort on Mosquito Island that he says will be run totally on solar and wind power (which is allowed since the power grid is not available on this small remote island). Branson says this will be a model for future development in the BVI, but it’s yet to be seen if any of the policy-makers will actually take heed.
Visitors should be aware of these issues if only so you can be mindful of the energy that you use. At the very least, please turn off air conditioners, lights, and fans when you’re leaving your hotel room for the day.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Virgin Islands, 4th edition