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Rosselló taps former PRASA chief Ortiz to head Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced the appointment of José Ortiz as the new executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

In doing so, Rosselló accepted the recommendation from the public corporation’s Governing Board, which voted unanimously in favor of Ortiz, who will earn a salary of $250,000 per year with the benefits of a regular government employee.

“Our thanks to Ortiz for agreeing to lead the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority in times of fiscal challenges and profound changes,” said the governor.

“Ortiz is a proven public servant, who has worked with administrations of different political parties, so I have no doubt that he will be able to direct the energy transformation agenda of our administration, with the benefit of the people of Puerto Rico as his only focus,” Rosselló said.

Ortiz has more than 30 years of experience, dealing with tax and operational issues of public corporations, private manufacturing, and real estate. He will assume the position of executive director of PREPA on July 23, 2018 after an orderly transition with current Executive Director Walter Higgins, who resigned earlier this month after a four-month tenure.

Ortiz is an electrical engineer and chaired PREPA’s Governing Board from 2011 to 2013. Additionally, Ortiz worked as the executive director of Infrastructure for the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) from 2004 to 2007 and oversaw the development of the Capital Improvement Plan for the public corporation.

This required the investment of approximately $2.3 million for the design and construction of new treatment plants and improvements to the sanitary system, as well as to improve the availability of drinking water and sanitary systems.

Later, Ortiz assumed the position of executive president of PRASA from 2007 to 2013. Ortiz led efforts to improve PRASA’s credit rating on an investment scale after 14 years of being on the verge of junk. He also negotiated three consented decrees with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to end more than 20 years of noncompliance.

During this period, Ortiz was also a member of the Water Utility Council of the American Water Works Association from 2011 to 2013. This Council is responsible for establishing legislative and regulatory priorities for the Association to ensure effective representation in Washington, DC for the benefit of the consumers.

Additionally, Ortiz was president of the Interagency Committee of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) from 2009 to 2013. This Committee was constituted to supervise and invest the funds received under this federal law. This program successfully invested $7.2 billion in critical infrastructure and was awarded by its responsible administration of public funds.

Ortiz was also president of the Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financing Authority from 2009 to 2012. During his presidency, he led the development of infrastructure work valued at $1.5 billion, including the construction and rehabilitation of 130 schools, sports facilities for the Central American Games of 2010, as well as the expansion and improvement of Centro Médico Hospital in Puerto Rico.

After nearly a decade of public service, Ortiz returned to the private sector to work as vice president of Strategic Development for Wyndham Worldwide from 2013 to 2018. Ortiz studied engineering at the University of Puerto Rico and holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Finance from the University of Turabo.

Private sector sees appointment as positive
Soon after Ortiz was designated to his post, a couple of major trade organizations representing builders and manufacturers in Puerto Rico voiced their approval of the decision.

The Puerto Rico Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America said Ortiz’s credentials “speak for themselves.”

“He knows exactly what Puerto Rico needs and the transformations to be done in the energy sector to provide reliable competitive electricity prices and service to customers,” said Stephen Spears, president of AGC-PR, which is the main voice of the island’s construction industry.

Spears reiterated the desire of the members of AGC-PR — ranging from general contractors and subcontractors to suppliers of materials  and services to maximize the participation of Puerto Rican companies and work hand-in-hand to “build a new and better Puerto Rico.”

“We’ll be able to make the most, on the long-term, of public and private funds that will enter the economy for construction and infrastructure recovery work,” he said.

“Ortiz’s appointment recognizes there is locally trained and capable talent to lead PREPA and modernize its infrastructure. Like Ortiz, local construction companies have the knowledge and experience to do the necessary work. We will ensure that we are given the same treatment and the same opportunities as companies that come from outside,” said Spears.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association President Rodrigo Masses also touted the designation, saying Ortiz knows the island’s economy and the needs of the productive sector. He said manufacturers “worked effectively” with Ortiz when he headed PRASA, “and we’re sure we will be able to collaborate as well in the same way in his new duties.”

Masses offered the talent and knowledge of the PRMA’s Energy Committee to support Ortiz to ensure the island “will soon have adequate electric power infrastructure. In addition, that the productive sector is able to take control of their energy that allows generating and distributing — or wheeling —through its supply chain to increase their competitiveness.”

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