Residents Say Enough as Power Outages Sweep Across the Virgin Islands

Residents Say Enough as Power Outages Sweep Across the Virgin Islands

No surprise, the V.I Water and Power Authority has once again failed St. John as electricity has been inconsistent at best and nonexistent at worst for the last three weeks. Residents have taken to social media to express their outrage and concerns at what has become a normal standard of island living on St John and surrounding Virgin Islands. Support has been rallying across social media platforms and political protests are being organized.

Randolph Harley Power Plant on STT, source of electricity and headache for a lot of Virgin Islanders
Randolph Harley Power Plant on STT, source of electricity and headache for a lot of Virgin Islanders

After WAPA’s most recent power outage announcement on Thursday via Facebook, commenters were outraged and joined together in disgust and alarm. 

One commenter wrote, “​And they keep thanking us for our patience? I do not think you will find even one person on these islands who will say to WAPA: Yes, we will continue to be patient with your negligence, incompetence, inadequacy, inefficiency, irresponsibility, inattentiveness, inaccuracy, miscalculations, mismanagement and shortsightedness resulting in your failure to provide power to these islands.​”

During a regularly scheduled board meeting on Thursday, Andrew Smith, WAPA’s Executive Director, explained the causes for each of the outages experienced by St. Thomas and St. John in the last three weeks. 

“There is not one cause for the most recent series of blackouts”, according to Smith, but “it’s been a sequence of a lot of different things that have been causing these repeated outages.” 

During the second week of what’s undoubtedly been an awful month for St. Thomas and St. John residents, heavy weather and a lightning strike were the initial cause of disruption at the Randolph Harley Power Plant on St. Thomas. This was followed by two episodes of malfunctioning equipment, “nuisance trips” and a failure of a disc “located between the Wartsila generator and its engine that became obsolete and needed to be replaced.” explained Smith at the board meeting. 

Residents Say Enough as Power Outages Sweep Across the Virgin Islands 1
Thursday (5/23) board meeting screenshots


WAPA’s woes were not over. The following week, a propane leak in Unit 15 caused the generators to be switched over to the plant’s short supply of diesel, which in turn caused rotating blackouts on most of St. Thomas and St. John during peak time. 

And in this past week, St Thomas’s Unit 23 tripped twice, once again causing power outages. To exacerbate the situation, heavy rainfall interrupted the flow of electricity throughout the underground transmission line, causing the most recent series of outages on St. John.

Thursday’s board meeting and the series of power outages in the last month have encapsulated the very foundation of the issue. Outdated equipment, according to Smith, “seven to twelve years overdue for major maintenance overhauls” and a strained budget are the root of the problem. Estimating around $2 to $5 million in repairs for each generator, Smith says they are desperately seeking grants for funding. 

It’s important to note that this past month’s negligence is not an isolated event. In addition to the outdated equipment, there is an ongoing class action lawsuit being carried out against WAPA for “consumer fraud and deceptive practices.”

An article published in March of 2024 from the VI Consortium writes, “the suit claims that WAPA and co-defendants Tantalus Systems Inc. and Itron Inc, who were involved in the manufacturing and installation of the smart meters, knew from the very beginning that the AMI system would not work.”

The lawsuit alleges that the companies “knew that this false information was provided to the United States Department of Agriculture…so WAPA could obtain a $13 million loan” to install the system.”

It is common knowledge (and something of a running joke) that WAPA inaccurately reads meters and charges residents who conserve power, even to the extent of installing their own solar panels, obscene amounts for electricity they are not even using.  

In addition to the ongoing electricity outage and fuel shortages for those with generators, the airport announced nightly closure for infrastructure maintenance. And last Wednesday, there was no AT&T/Liberty cell service. 

Despite the recent infrastructure disruptions, the resilient community of St. John has come together, proving that their spirit remains strong. In the midst of the challenges, The Refinery with Aubrey Artworks hosted an art show on Thursday in the heart of Cruz Bay, celebrating local creativity and unity.

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Aubrey Artworks showcase 05/23 at The Refinery / courtesy of Erin Lieb

The community Facebook page also organized a list of bars and restaurants with generators. Some of those restaurants have offered discounted food, drink, and extended hours for patrons. 

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Lovango Rum Bar’s F*** WAPA Special over Memorial Day Weekend

As a former resident of St. John, my hearts are with those who, in the last month, have had sleepless nights in the heat, watched their overpriced groceries spoil, and could not even use running water. Drastic change is inevitable when basic needs are no longer being met. 



Legislature Corner: WAPA Problems Must Be Resolved Cooperatively | St. Thomas Source (stthomassource.com)

WAPA failure on St. John leads to call for protest today | News | virginislandsdailynews.com (WAPA budget breakdown included)

Works Cited (not linked above)

Simon, J. (n.d.). Power outages across territory caused by “a lot of different things,” CEO Andrew Smith tells Wapa Board. The Virgin Islands Consortium.

11 thoughts on “Residents Say Enough as Power Outages Sweep Across the Virgin Islands”

  1. What happened to the two generators that were to be delivered to St. John – one for Cruz Bay and one for Coral Bay? Where are they?

    • From what I could find, they are still negotiating a contract with Wartsila over these generators. It’s been five years in the process

  2. This hurts the locals so much but, even worse, those visitors (like me) who look forward to a great time on St. John find the woes and stress of dealing with a power outage. Many have no idea of what to do. There needs to be serious investigations into this situation!

    • No, I don’t think so, however I would be fully prepared for an outage. Contact your vacation rental and see if they have a generator (they most likely will)

  3. As a longtime visitor to St John (over many years/vacations here) and one who LOVES St John, we are coming to the conclusion that our hard earned vacation dollars are going to have to be spent in other places other than St John……because of the inconsistent & unknown situation of WAPA. Yes, we have been on island when there have been power outages before & rolled with those punches……but……this last/current episode is exposing how “unknown” each of these episodes is becoming. We are at an older age where vacations should be more stress-free than stressful. My heart breaks for those businesses, workers, friends who live on island year round. It’s so very hard for them on a daily basis but add to that the inconsistency of WAPA, the lost revenue, and daily stress no electricity brings just makes life harder than it has to be. I pray WAPA resolves these issues before this beautiful island takes more hits than it has to.

  4. How can it change, when the Government itself isn’t paying its WAPA bills, so WAPA is broke, and can’t fix the ancient generators, they just patch and bandaid. The second and equal problem is the high demand for power on what was once a small, simple island. Basic electric service, yes. Ceiling fans and refrigerators, yes. Hoards of tourists and huge rental villas and homes, all demanding air conditioning and high electrical usage are straining the island and the system beyond what it can support. Having lived there and visited for many years before, I feel the island is at a tipping point and has to back off a bit, though that will hurt the huge growth of small businesses. Solar energy and generators will be more necessary as you cannot count on WAPA to ever get much better.

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