In the wake of the biggest blackout Puerto Rico has experienced in more than three decades, which has affected more than 1.5 million customers, members of the island’s private sector urged the powers-that-be to push forward with a complete overhaul of the electrical system.
During a news conference at the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association’s Guaynabo headquarters, trade group president Rodrigo Masses said transforming the island’s electrical system will require “will and sacrifice” to ensure reliablity.
Among other changes, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority — the island’s sole power provider — include integrating renewable energy, energy “wheeling,” and private generation, options the trade group has been pushing for since Law 73 was passed in 2008.
“Puerto Rico has experienced a difficult time trying to improve its infrastructure, unsuccessfully,” Masses said, flanked by members of the Private Sector Coalition, the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, the Restaurants Association, among other private sector representatives.
“We’re paying an extremely high energy rate, and are subjected to huge increases. We’re totally exposed to a situation in which we have no control and in which despite trying to help and conduct efforts with different parties, including PREPA, we still lack the basics to operate,” he said.
Masses said PREPA’s restructuring process is not working from the operational point of view, since maintenance is not being effective and the old facilities have had enough.
“This inevitably requires a renegotiation of its debt and action on infrastructure that meets the demands of the industry, but especially meets the needs of all PREPA customers,” he said.
Saying Puerto Rico must learn from the lessons of other jurisdictions, for example New York City’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy, which laid bare that its power system was not suitable to meet the demands of the 21st century, leading the town to work with the private sector to improve the system.
“Technology and the financial will of the private sector are ready to help meet the island’s energy needs in coordination with PREPA,” he said, without specifying how much of an investment would be necessary to overhaul the system.
“However, we must immediately address the legal framework of the restructuring process so it does not obstruct distributed and renewable energy generation,” Masses said.
“The most successful and emerging economies are embracing distributed generation as a key challenge for economic development. Going against this worldwide trend leads to wrong decisions about the design of the electrical system that any jurisdiction with a major industrial component to its economy like ours requires,” he said.