Oct. 27, 2005 — Alric Simmonds, chairman of the Public Services Commission, said Wednesday that "almost every day" the PSC gets complaints from residents about appliances being destroyed by electrical surges.
Representatives from the Water and Power Authority, who responded to Simmonds at the PSC meeting, gave little indication that the Authority could help.
Sam Hall, WAPA counsel, read from the statute that says the power company would not be responsible for any appliance damage. He said that was also part of the service agreement signed by customers when they request service.
Nellon Bowry, chief financial officer for WAPA, said, if WAPA assumed responsibility for damaged appliances, "WAPA customers would be paying millions and millions of dollars."
Hall recommended that customers get surge protectors to protect their computers, TVs and appliances.
Simmonds said that good surge protectors were not inexpensive, costing up to $300, and that not everyone in the Virgin Islands could make that outlay. He added that people sometimes have experienced damaged appliances even after buying a surge protector.
Bowry pointed out that much appliance damage comes from elements beyond WAPA's control, such as lightning strikes. He said TVs could be fried, even if they are unplugged from an electric outlet, by lightening surging through the cable connection. Lightning coming through a phone line can also damage computers.
Commissioner Verne David, however, said, "The problem here is the extent to which WAPA is creating fluctuations that are unreasonable in the power supply."
Commissioners and WAPA representatives did agree the public needs to be educated more on how to protect appliances from power surges.
Commissioner Alecia Wells discussed a surge protector that could be put on the meter and protect all the appliances in the house.
Simmonds told WAPA that the energy bill passed last year by the U.S. Congress addresses areas concerning reliable energy.
The WAPA representatives assured him that WAPA was closely reading that bill.
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