Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Friday the expectations that power will be fully restored in four to six months is “unacceptable” and vowed to set off an aggressive strategy to energize the island as soon as possible.
During an afternoon briefing, Rosselló said the plan calls for putting the U.S. Corps of Engineers at work with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority in tandem with local and external resources to demand that the process move along faster.
“Those numbers saying we’ll have power back in four to six months, or even a year, are not acceptable. We have to find resources to light up Puerto Rico faster,” he said.
Those resources will be solicited from the U.S. Government, particularly Congress, where Rosselló and other administration officials have already begun lobbying.
“I’m starting to talk about some of the necessities we have. When you look at our grid you see certain things that jump out of the page,” he said. “We have an old system that wasn’t maintained, that couldn’t withstand the winds we encountered here in Puerto Rico.”
“You have a system where most of the generation is done in the south, yet most of the consumption is done in the north and anybody who knows a little bit about electrical engineering knows that we lose some of that in efficiencies transmitting that from the south to the north,” Rosselló said.
He said spending taxpayer money on restoring the old grid will likely lead to the U.S. government having to shell out more money when another storm hits Puerto Rico, he said.
“It’s more money spent, and we’re going to be left without electricity again,” he said.
So the task at hand is to figure out a way to get energy back in the quickest way possible for Puerto Rico, so businesses and people can get back to their normal lives.
“But how do we do so in a way in which we give ourselves an opportunity to not just rebuild the old system, but to establish a platform in which we can consider microgrids, more ample generation of solar energy, or other components,” he said.
Most of Puerto Rico has been in the dark since Hurricane María made landfall on Sept. 20. Recovery has been slow, but crews from other U.S. jurisdictions, particularly Florida, are arriving with equipment to begin the recovery process.
“We can’t see Puerto Rico as perhaps another jurisdiction in the U.S. where it’s already modern, where rebuilding might do the trick. Over here, we can’t think of putting Puerto Rico back as it was, but rather we need to be thinking about how we can put it as it should be,” Rosselló said.
His comments came after a bi-partisan Congressional delegation headed by House Speaker Paul Ryan visited the island and toured some of the most ravaged areas.
“Congress is committed to Puerto Rico, which is why we approved a package of measures to begin rebuilding,” he said, referring to the $35 billion in relief passed Thursday at the House.