The U.S. Virgin Islands may build a pipeline to replace diesel-generated power with natural gas brought in from a bigger grid in the nearby U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the head of the islands' utility company said Thursday.

Engineers are looking to recalibrate oil-dependent generators to burn cheaper natural gas instead, Hugo Hodge Jr., chief of the U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, known as WAPA, told an annual meeting of the utility's board.

The shift would save the WAPA and its customers a significant amount of money, WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn said without giving details. The average household in the three-island U.S. territory of 130,000 residents now pays $210 a month for electricity, she said.

An undersea pipeline would transfer natural gas to St. Thomas from the outlying Puerto Rican island of Culebra if a deal is struck in coming months, Dunn said. Neither she nor Hodge said when such a change could take effect, but Hodge said Puerto Rican and Virgin Islands officials will meet to discuss the plan in August.

To cut its own dependence on oil, Puerto Rico's state-owned power utility is planning to boost investment in natural gas generators, wind, wave and other kinds of alternative energy, and has earmarked millions of dollars for wind power over the next 20 years, Jorge Rodriguez, executive director of Puerto Rico's power company, has said.

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