Bryan Talks Energy Emergency Due to War in Ukraine

During his weekly briefing, Gov. Albert Bryan said he considered declaring an energy emergency due to the anticipated fuel shortages as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Renewable energy sources include wind power and solar power. (Submitted photo)

The crisis is negatively affecting the cost of energy around the world, including in the territory, he said. He warned to expect extra costs in shipping and supplies, higher fuel costs in transportation to bring items to the territory, and an increase in the cost of electricity.

Due to “this emergency situation,” he plans to fast-track options to keep his pledge to the public to offset energy costs. Bryan pointed out he made the pledge during the State of the Territory address before the Russian attack threatened the global economy.

“I stand by my promise when I made that promise to you on Jan. 24,” he said.

Since then, there has been a 36 percent increase in propane and a 22 percent increase in gasoline in one week on the mainland.

The governor met with the V.I. Water and Power Authority chief executive and cabinet members last weekend to study how to offset rising costs and implement permanent renewables “as much and as quickly as possible.”

In addition to Andrew Smith of WAPA, Bryan said he engaged with Kyle Fleming, of the V.I. Energy Office and tasked both men to quickly research cost savings methods, especially solar energy for St. Croix. They also are studying how to expedite the permitting process.

St. Croix will be the easiest to convert to solar, according to Bryan. The big island has ideal topography and has already researched a large system. If one island is on solar, he said it is a benefit to the entire territory.

Ideally, the plan is to locate a big manufacturer to come in, build the system and sell back the power with a negotiated buy-out at a later date, according to the governor.

“That will save us tons of money perpetually,” he said.

“Getting something done and getting something done quickly — that is the kind of situation we’re in,” he said. We need to get the whole island energized in 90 days like we did before. That’s the kind of urgency we’re under here because we cannot afford for the light bills to go where they were in 2008 and 2009 to cripple our economy and cripple our small businesses. We have to figure this out, and we have to do this quickly.”

The government will also fast-track batteries and purchase more efficient generators. And Bryan said he plans to meet soon with the Legislature for their ideas and feedback.

The governor encouraged the public to look at purchasing electric vehicles. He pointed out there is a $7,000 rebate on energy-efficient vehicles, and by June, there will be a $25 million solar loan program with a one percent interest rate.

Bryan said the VI government owns several Leafs and is purchasing 23 more electric vehicles in the next couple of months. One hundred charging stations will be installed that will be free to motorists for a period of time.

The governor said the territory will move forward to protect the environment and get away from “gas-guzzling vehicles.” The VI government will “fight for more renewable dollars and end its crazy dependency on fossil fuel – diesel or propane.” He also said they will work to safely reopen the St. Croix refinery.