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Op-Ed: Building brighter, safer communities across Puerto Rico

For far too long, too many of our cities, towns and neighborhoods have remained in the dark due to hundreds of thousands of damaged and neglected streetlights. While the issue of darkened streetlights long predates LUMA, we have prioritized an island-wide initiative to address this issue across Puerto Rico, wherever we can.

We share our customers’ ultimate goal: improve quality of life and public safety. 

To help address the issue of streetlights, we launched the LUMA Community Streetlight Initiative (CSI) in July 2022. CSI is Puerto Rico’s first transmission and distribution reconstruction project approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and represents a historic improvement effort by LUMA.

This first-of-its-kind project represents a $1 billion investment, funded by FEMA, dedicated to replacing and repairing 300,000 broken streetlights across all 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico.

Some customers and community leaders have asked how this program will be implemented. It’s an important question and we want to be transparent about some key facts. As part of CSI, we are conducting an island-wide assessment of all streetlights and prioritizing communities that need streetlight repairs the most.

In just 10 months, we have replaced more than 30,300 streetlights, providing increased safety and energy efficiency to the municipalities of Aguada, Aibonito, Cataño, Dorado, Guánica, Gurabo, Florida, Hatillo, Lajas, Luquillo, Manatí, Maunabo and Villalba. Our crews are also performing assessments of existing streetlights in an additional 33 municipalities, identifying future locations where repairs and replacements are necessary.

LUMA is not just replacing streetlights, we are upgrading them. Every streetlight we install utilizes next generation LED lights that use approximately 65% less energy and can last four times longer than conventional streetlight bulbs. This is an important energy efficiency effort that will have long-term benefits for Puerto Rico.

In addition, in areas where marine wildlife may be affected by conventional white lights, LUMA is installing specialized, red lighting that does not affect the night vision of the animals and helps ensure we are doing our part to protect their natural habitat and environment. We will continue expanding the scope of our CSI efforts and will be replacing, on average, more than 3,200 streetlights each month across Puerto Rico.

Author Heriberto González is director of streetlighting for LUMA Energy.

Through these improvements, we are also contributing to the creation of more resilient communities by reinforcing streetlight infrastructure, such as arms, bases and poles, enabling them to withstand wind gusts of up to 160 miles per hour.

Given the role of streetlights across our communities, it’s also critically important for our customers to know that not all streetlights fall under the responsibility of the utility. Some, like those streetlights that are owned or operated by private entities, including some highway operators, are the responsibility of municipalities or other agencies.

Nevertheless, we are committed to repairing damaged streetlights that fall under LUMA’s responsibility as quickly and safely as possible, and working closely with community and government leaders to help ensure streetlight issues across the island are addressed, even those not under our purview.

Overall, CSI represents an essential effort to modernize a vital part of our infrastructure undertaken by our LUMA team and local partners. Ultimately, these new streetlights will not only improve public safety for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, they will further improve the quality of life for communities, so children can walk to school in the morning, families can enjoy an evening walk and community celebrations can stretch later into the night.

Above all, LUMA’s CSI represents what can be accomplished when all of us — from local leaders, to those who repair and replace streetlights — work for the betterment of our communities and the places we proudly call home.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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