DDEC chief: Goal is for LUMA Energy to address islanders’ real needs
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Amid the blackouts that islanders continue facing from either failures in the transmission and distribution system managed by LUMA Energy or generation issues at Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) plants, Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish acronym) Secretary Manuel Cidre stated Thursday that in the short term he would be inclined to give LUMA Energy a fair opportunity to address their subscribers’ concerns effectively.
“If I had a turn to tackle your question, I would say that, at this moment, if an average citizen would call LUMA, they would receive attention and a coherent explanation of what is happening,” Cidre told the STAR when asked if there were concerns at DDEC about power outages taking a toll on the island’s economic development.
“Obviously, I do not want to appear conformist,” he added. “In the short term, I am satisfied with that; in the medium term, [I will be satisfied only] with the quality, reliable, and cost-effective energy that the people deserve.”
Cidre insisted that providing residents with adequate power service is “democracy.” That is why, he noted, the agency he leads and La Fortaleza oversee the private consortium in charge of managing PREPA’s transmission and distribution system for 15 years under a public-private partnership.
Likewise, he noted that DDEC has an Energy Public Policy Office that “is not only the industry’s liaison with LUMA, but it also proactively engages with public energy policy to ensure that it improves and, specifically, that companies like LUMA do the job in a resilient manner, but, more than anything else, in a manner consistent with the governor’s public expectations.”
“I am sure, and I attest that La Fortaleza is very close to LUMA, I attest that the Department of Economic Development is very close to LUMA, not close to LUMA simply to be critical or demanding of what is going right or wrong, but close to LUMA to see how we can collaborate so that, together we can work and see how to solve a project that has had problems for many years,” he said. “I am here to defend the country’s multisectoriality and, unlike what happened in the past, the sensitivity that comes from our agency and staff will also go to our citizens.”
“I wish I had the answer to tell you that what we are doing is delivering results; once again, the Department of Economic Development is doing all we can to make this work, and make it work better than what we had,” Cidre added. “What we hear sometimes raises concerns because it is far from what many expected; however, this won’t make me retreat from the battlefront and I’ll keep working until LUMA can evolve to address the people’s real needs.”
Cidre reiterated that LUMA Energy “came here to transmit and distribute energy, not to generate it.” Therefore, he said, the government must inspect PREPA’s generation stations.
“The process of putting the generation of energy in Puerto Rico in the hands of a different operator goes hand in hand with private efforts to insert renewable energy production in a way that we do not depend, on an island 100 percent surrounded by water, on a single source,” the DDEC secretary said.
Cidre’s remarks came after a meeting with Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to keep La Fortaleza abreast of the agency’s various efforts to promote economic development on the island.