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LUMA outlines infrastructure improvements for 2024

LUMA Energy’s chief executive officer, Juan Saca, announced that before next summer, smart meters will start to be installed across Puerto Rico over a three-year period, “guaranteeing that our 1.5 million consumers will have smart meters.”

He said the $876 million initiative is in the final stages of approval by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“It will be crucial in the modernization of the infrastructure of the [electric power] transmission and distribution system, which LUMA is responsible for,” Saca said in a news conference at LUMA headquarters in San Juan.

In September, the utility presented its 12-month “Building a Better Energy Future” plan, which focuses on system reliability and customer service improvements. 

As part of the company’s year-end review, LUMA officials recalled the progress made to improve the electrical system’s reliability and customer service.

LUMA is also launching this month “new personalized Customer Service Text Notifications to update customers on reported service and billing requests.”  

During the year-end review, LUMA presented updates for on vegetation clearing efforts, substation improvements, repair and replacement of utility poles and streetlights, grid automation device installations, new and enhanced customer tools and communications, and the Customer Battery Energy Sharing initiative.

“We are committed to making progress every day and sharing regular updates with all Puerto Ricans. As part of that commitment, we’re very excited to announce two major initiatives, the Meter Modernization Initiative and Customer Service Text Notifications,” Saca said. “These two initiatives will help build a better energy future for all our customers by providing LUMA with information we need to restore power more quickly when outages occur, while also providing text-based, timely updates along the way.”

The meter modernization initiative is aimed at enhancing subscriber benefits, including faster service restoration through improved outage detection technology, support for energy savings and efficiency programs, more accurate billing and greater customer control over monthly bills through better energy usage information.  

“The acquisition of these meters represents a significant step in the quality of electricity service for subscribers in Puerto Rico, even more so when they will provide transparency in the electrical reading and greater security in the face of weather events,” said Manuel Laboy, executive director of Puerto RIco’s Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3). “These are issues that residents of Puerto Rico have historically demanded and … are being addressed through this project that is being developed after a substantial allocation of FEMA funds.”

With the customer service SMS text notifications, LUMA’s new SMS service will enable subscribers who have registered cellphone numbers as part of their account to receive SMS text notifications on their initiated billing and service requests. 

The customer service improvement includes benefits such as updates on service interruptions and emergency situations, including estimated times of restoration; bill payment confirmations; and updates on bill adjustment requests.

Work plan progress
During LUMA’s year-end review of its “Building a Better Energy Future” plan, the company provided the following updates on the progress made since Sept. 13:  

  • Installed more than 1,200 grid automation devices, with a total exceeding 3,000 to date on critical infrastructure, to reduce outage impacts as part of LUMA’s goal to install more than 5,000 devices by July.
  • Repaired and replaced more than 1,000 utility poles across the island, surpassing 10,300 to date, to strengthen the system, aiming to repair and replace 100,000 poles in the next five years. 
  • Started reconstruction at three substations to improve service reliability and resiliency. To date, LUMA has started or completed upgrade and reconstruction work at 14 substations, with a goal to upgrade 50 substations and construct six in the next two years. 
  • Cleared vegetation from more than 200 miles of powerline rights-of-way across 59 municipalities, with a total of 3,700 miles of transmission and distribution powerlines cleared to date, as part of the goal to clear more than 16,000 miles in the next three years.
  • Installed 25,500 streetlights totalling more than 78,000 streetlights to date across 35 municipalities. The plan is to extend this to all municipalities in 2024, under the FEMA-funded Community Streetlight Initiative to install more than 300,000 streetlights in three years.
  • Launched the Customer Battery Energy Sharing (CBES) initiative in October, a program for emergency demand response to improve service reliability islandwide. Five renewable service providers have joined, with more than 1,700 customers enrolled since its inception.

“While there is still much work to be done, we all should be proud of the enormous progress the nearly 4,500 men and women at LUMA have made in just three months since announcing our ‘Building a Better Energy Future’ work plan,” Saca concluded. “My commitment is that we will continue to make progress every day, and will not stop until we build a better energy future for all those we proudly serve across Puerto Rico.”

Author Details
Author Details
Maria Miranda is an investigative reporter and editor with 20 years of experience in Puerto Rico’s English-language newspapers. In that capacity, she has worked on long-term projects and has covered breaking news under strict deadlines. She is proficient at mining data from public databases and interviewing people (both public figures and private sector individuals). She is also a translator, and has edited and translated an economy book on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. She worked as an interpreter for FEMA during the recent recovery efforts of Hurricane María and earned her FEMA badge.

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