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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Access to WCA pilot program to accelerate FEMA-approved grid reconstruction

Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Executive Director Manuel Laboy Rivera

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, along with Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3) Executive Director Manuel Laboy Rivera, announced on Tuesday the availability of the Working Capital Advance (WCA) pilot program for the reconstruction of the electric power system required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Now the Electric Power Authority can request an advance of 25 percent of funds for reconstruction work, corresponding to the money approved for projects required under FEMA,” the governor said at a press conference. “To this end, three requests from the Authority were processed and $1.7 million was disbursed. This advance will be crucial to start with those projects that FEMA is approving soon. Let us remember that, until now, only municipalities could participate in this pilot program.”

The first projects that benefited from the WCA in the reconstruction of the electrical network are related to energy generation work at the Aguirre, Palo Seco and Costa Sur power plants.

“At this time, PREPA with the assistance of COR3 defines the bidding process that will be carried out for the process of acquiring materials and equipment in relation to the $600 million project that FEMA recently ordered,” Laboy Rivera said. “Then PREPA will submit a request to the WCA, whose advance of 25 percent will result in the disbursement of some $150 million.”

The COR3 head went on to highlight that, under the emergency and permanent categories, about $1.6 billion has been awarded to PREPA as a result of the damage caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Among the materials included in the project are about 2,500 miles of transmission lines, more than 300 substations, about 200,000 transformers and some 13,400 miles of feeders, among other necessary equipment.

Laboy Rivera noted that the WCA allows opportunities to continue to be identified to strengthen this initiative in favor of subrecipients. As part of the process, José Baquero, the FEMA disaster recovery coordinator for Puerto Rico, recommended the inclusion of PREPA in the program both for transmission and distribution reconstruction projects, as well as for generation and other installations with obligations by FEMA for permanent work.

“For FEMA, the transformation of the island’s power grid is a priority,” Baquero said. “With the inclusion of PREPA in this program, an important step is being taken to advance the necessary capital and start the initial repairs. … PREPA will now have the necessary liquidity that will drive the work for a more stable system. Without a doubt, this collaboration between the government of Puerto Rico and FEMA will help us achieve a faster recovery for Puerto Rico.”

Progress in the reconstruction works is a reality, the officials said. Now, Unit 5 of the San Juan Power Plant is in service, generating over 200 megawatts and using natural gas, augmenting the work completed at the Mayagüez Power Plant.

As an example, PREPA Executive Director Josué Colón Ortiz pointed out that the repairs to the Mayagüez 1A and 1B aeroderivative units were completed in May, after investing some $18 million. At Unit 4A, work to correct a combustor was done at a cost of $400,000. The major repair of Unit 5 CT and STG of the San Juan Power Plant was completed in June at a cost of over $30 million. There, work was done to replace the heat recovery unit, turbine repair and control valves, along with work on the condenser and inspection of the generator. Meanwhile, the repair work at Unit 1 of the Aguirre Power Plant is 90 percent complete.

A LUMA Energy official added that 51 detailed project scopes of work have been submitted to FEMA, which represent $390 million, along with 19 FEMA projects valued at $750 million and 30 additional projects that will be submitted in the third quarter of 2022.

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