The V.I. Energy Office director told the Senate Committee on economic development, energy and technology of the Monday night who thinks electric sunroof loan program has become "a major obstacle", and now it is moving forward.
Director Bevin Smith Jr. said that the Office of energy and other government agencies involved in the programme have been working constantly to meet the requirements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant - funded the program - which is fulfilling their mandates.
He said that with the signing of agreements with the VI water and power authority and the authority of economic development in March, the program continues and has now started the issuance of cheques to approved applicants.
The program offers loans at low interest and rebates to homeowners who purchase and install solar water heaters.
The energy Office run, EDA processes and disburses the loan on the basis of a decision of the Office of energy credit and WAPA manages some aspects of loans, including customers of invoicing for the loan payment on their electric bill and send payments to the EDA.
The hearing was convened to allow participants in the programme to update its status. At the scheduled time of the hearing, none of the packages of discounts was fulfilled, while dozens of applications had been submitted.
This situation began to change in the last few weeks.
In two days last week, more than 22 loans were processed and checks have started to come out, said Carolyn Henry, acting director of the loans of the Bank for the development of the Government of EDA.
As the hearing began, the entrepreneurs involved in the sales of water heaters solar and installation expressed their frustration by the time that it took to get the program running.
Michael DiNapoli, co-owner of Solar Solutions, which sells and installs solar water heaters in Santa Cruz, acknowledged that he had changed a lot in the program in the last three weeks. He said that the first system funded by the program has been installed in St. Croix and is in operation.
However, DiNapoli said that he was disappointed that it had taken so long for the funds to be disbursed and said that sales have dried up during the months of waiting.
He also said that the graduates of the Green Technologies training program, who learned to install solar water heaters, "have not had green jobs available to them until now." He graduated in December from the programme, which was a joint effort of various government agencies and private companies.
In his testimony, Smith emphasized that had specific requirements for the federal grant that funded the project and the energy Office had to go through a rigorous process to use it, overcoming obstacles along the way.
He provided the senators with a timetable of activities of the Office of energy relating to the concession, which included the development of the program, having public hearings on the proposal and obtain federal approval. He said that the process of signing agreements with other agencies involved in the programme took more time than expected.
However, the program has exceeded the objectives of ARRA to force the money and in the next couple of weeks, more than $400,000 will be available for sellers, said Smith.