The BVI Electricity Corporation has been awarded €245,481 (about $241,000) from the European Union to improve its ability to keep the power on during pandemics and other “extreme and recurrent” disasters, according to the utility.

The project, known as BVIEC Covid-19 Business Continuity Support, is part of the EU’s Covid-19 Resilience Response Facility of the Resilience, Sustainable Energy and Marine Biodiversity Programme, the BVIEC explained in a press release issued last Thursday. That broader EU programme, known as RESEMBID, is funded by the EU and implemented by the development cooperation agency of the French government, Expertise France.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the extensive damage caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria have shown how vulnerable normal operations are to disruptions, particularly in the electricity generation and distribution industry,” the release stated. “This initiative will strengthen the operations and increase the resiliency of the BVI Electricity Corporation to respond and adapt to the disruptions mentioned in order to maintain the standard of living for the residents of the territory.”

The utility added that the grant will aim to improve its ability to communicate with other agencies during a disaster and to restore electricity more quickly after outages.

In the region

The EU’s RESEMBID programme was launched in January 2019, and at the height of the pandemic in 2020 it pledged €10 million to support “sustainable human development” efforts in 12 Caribbean countries and territories.

Besides the Virgin Islands, beneficiaries include Aruba, Anguilla, Bonaire, the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Montserrat, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Barthélemy, St. Maarten and the Turks and Caicos Islands. In March, the programme announced that it had granted €3 million to support similar resiliency projects in seven of the countries and territories. RESEMBID Programme Director Fabian McKinnon said at that time, “For the last three years, the RESEMBID team has worked quietly and diligently with applicants in the 12 Caribbean [countries and territories] to ensure their project ideas developed into full-fledged projects. “We could not be prouder of the owners of these projects and are happy to be part of their journey to bring these sustainable ideas in resilience, sustainable energy and marine biodiversity to life. We look forward to quickly rolling out many more in the months to come.”

A press release issued at the time added that “50 additional projects and concept notes” were approved or under review for funding.

Customer impact

The VI project falls under the BVIEC Act of 1978, Section V, 31.(1), according to the utility.

Through the introduction of information and communication technologies, the BVIEC staff will be “better equipped to respond” to “customers’ requests in a timely manner,” the agency stated last Thursday.

“Along with new policies and procedures, these changes will provide the foundation to guide both the employees and residents of the territory during the disruptions mentioned.”

The utility also promised that in the coming months, it would provide “added convenience in the form of a reduced need to visit our offices to request specific services or report issues.”