Interior provides $3M in energy grants to US territories

U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina approved $3.1 million in grant funding for energy improvements to help reduce dependence on imported fuel oil in the U.S. territories of American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The grants are provided through the Empowering Insular Communities Program from the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA).
 
“We are very excited that the Manu’a Islands in American Samoa will soon be 100 percent powered by renewable energy,” said Assistant Secretary Kia’aina. “We also recognize that the territories will need to continue to rely on some combination of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. These grants are creating efficiencies that will reduce the cost of energy for the territories.”
 
Empowering Insular Communities grants to be awarded this week are as follow:
 
American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA) – $368,468 for Manu’a Islands Demand Side Management Program and $927,500 for Supplemental Battery Storage – A major strategy of the American Samoa Energy Action Plan is for all three Manu’a Islands to obtain 100 percent of their electrical power from renewable sources. Under current projects, Ofu and Olosega will reach 85 percent and Ta’u will reach 90 percent by October of this year. After careful design and feasibility considerations, leading micro-grid experts have proposed two final projects to help Manu’a attain energy sovereignty: 1) Demand-side efficiency measures and 2) 1.5 MWh of additional battery storage on Ta’u. Reducing the overall demand for electricity is the most cost effective way of reaching the goal of 100 percent. All sodium vapor streetlights will be converted to LED lights, reducing energy consumption by half. LED lighting will also replace less-efficient lighting sources in all commercial structures and schools to include additional energy retro-fits. In all, these energy conservation measures are estimated to reduce demand for electricity by 15 percent in all three islands.
 
Through ongoing construction, ASPA will install 1.4 MW of solar panels and 4.2 MWh of Tesla batteries on Ta’u. The project will offset approximately 90% of diesel consumption in Ta’u. The additional battery storage, coupled with two 100-kW wind turbines (which will be funded locally) will bring the total renewable energy capacity to 100% and bring Manu’a to its self-sufficient energy goal.
 
Commonwealth Utilities Corporation (CUC) – $649,450 for Pre-Pay Meters Project in Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands – Funds will be used to purchase and install 1,550 pre-pay meters in support of the CNMI Strategic Energy Plan which identifies that energy consumption typically drops 15-20 percent shortly after a pre-paid meter is installed. Next generation pre-pay meters will be installed in residential homes allowing customers to recharge by Internet or telephone. Through this project a total of 21 percent of residential accounts will have been converted to pre-pay and will result in an estimated combined savings to customers of $12,000 per month. The anticipated savings to the 7 percent of government agencies to be converted to pre-pay metering will be $61,566 per month.
 
Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Division of Agriculture – $330,128 for Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Power System for Kagman Agricultural Water Well Stations – Funds will be used to install five PV systems with battery storage at separate Kagman Water Well Stations replacing current grid hook-ups. The water wells supply water to over 50 farm plots in the Kagman area that are managed by the Division of Agriculture. More than 75 percent of the island’s vegetable and fruit harvest comes from the Kagman farm plots and represents about 10 percent of the annual agricultural production of the territory. The solar energy generated from these PV systems will eliminate the division’s annual electric bill of $90,000.
 
U.S. Virgin Islands Schneider Regional Medical Center, St. Thomas – $380,752 to Modernize the Hospital’s Chiller Plant by replacing three existing chillers with high efficiency models. The new high-efficiency chillers are essential to provide air conditioning to the hospital and will result in an estimated 25 percent reduction in electricity consumption for the hospital.
 
Virgin Islands Energy Office – $310,000 for Energy Efficiency Market Potential Project and $200,000 to Create Sustainable Market Opportunities for Distributed Generation Market Structure. The funds will provide for two priority projects under the U.S. Virgin Islands Energy Roadmap. The first is to establish benchmarks and baselines to track building energy usage and identify high-impact energy conservation measures. Funding will be used to conduct investment-grade audits in a representative sample of buildings (commercial, hotel, residential, etc.) and review different approaches to encourage investment in efficiency measures.
 
The funding will also provide for a grid integration study, an economic analysis of the return on investment for distributed solar generation, and training for policymakers on different approaches to solar energy as they develop legislation, regulations, and agency operating procedures to implement a comprehensive energy policy for the territory. This will supplement work previously carried out in the territory under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Development in Island Nations pilot project.
 
The Secretary of the Interior is responsible for coordinating federal policy with respect to the territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and administering and overseeing U.S. federal assistance provided to the freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau under the Compacts of Free Association. On behalf of the Secretary, the Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas executes these responsibilities through the Office of Insular Affairs whose mission is to foster economic opportunities, promote government efficiency, and improve the quality of life for the people of the insular areas.
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