Private sector banding together to propose high energy cost solutions
It seems as though everybody is looking for ways to drive down Puerto Rico’s mounting energy costs, which are strangling residential and commercial customers alike every month. On Monday, a large group of private sector representative came together to propose to the governor the creation of an independent body to find solutions in the short, medium and long term to deal with the problem.
Among the associations comprising the alliance is the United Retailers Association (known as CUD), the Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution Chamber (known as MIDA), the of Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, the Puerto Rico Energy Cluster, the School of Architects and Landscape Architects of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Real Estate Lessors Association, and the Gasoline Retailers Association.
“We represent the engine of economic development, aside from all being consumers. With our expertise in areas of administration, construction, management, finance and technology, we understand can offer a valuable contribution,” said Maria Judith Oquendo, president of the Puerto Rico Energy Cluster. “From this sector we can be more agile, objective and cohesive. Through this body we create we believe we have a chance to evaluate other energy alternatives.”
The alliance, which represents some 15,000 companies in Puerto Rico, hopes to incorporate other sectors — including labor and government — to guarantee the objectivity of the proposals. Each sector can lend their expertise regarding all of the elements that drive up energy costs, propose alternatives of energy sources that have been studied and successfully implemented in other countries, propose negotiation alternatives with the Puerto Rico Electric Company’s bondholders and develop a fuel adjustment formula based on actual costs.
The group also hopes that on or before 120 days, it could have a preliminary plan to start working immediately and see results in the short term.
“Our claim is the same as it is for all Puerto Ricans, which is to lower the cost of energy that is drowining all of us,” said Ignacio Veloz, president of the CUD. “In our particular case, this claim is stronger than ever as we’re the sector that we pays the most for electricity.”
“As a result, we’re limited from creating new jobs or expanding our businesses, which undoubtedly negatively impacts Puerto Rico’s economy.
Meanwhile, Rafael Castro, head of the Architects’ group, said PREPA’s model “should encourage energy saving in all sectors, as other jurisdictions do successfully.”
High energy costs have been an ongoing problem in Puerto Rico, where residential and commercial clients pay some of the highest rates in the world. Most recently, however, consumers have been expressing their dissatisfaction — some via Social Media outlets — with the way PREPA calculates monthly bills, specifically the fuel adjustment charge, which is neither explained nor broken down in the monthly bill.
Consumer pressure is apparently weighing on the agency, which in the last week has seen the exit of two executive directors.