The San Juan Daily Star
Energy watchdog to track needed changes in LUMA’s ‘day-to-day’ operations
By John McPhaul
The assistant secretary of energy affairs at La Fortaleza, Francisco Berríos Portela, spoke on Thursday about what his role will be in the process of supervising the compliance of LUMA Energy, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau and the Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3A) with energy policy.
“My role specifically is going to be working on what the day-to-day operation is,” Berríos Portela said in response to questions from the press. “The governor recently reiterated the position that he requested adjustments to LUMA’s action plan. We have seen and will continue to be very attentive to all the changes and implementations of those changes that have been requested for the system to improve.”
The official will receive daily reports from agencies linked to the energy issue as part of the monitoring.
Asked about the actions he will take to verify that the information provided is correct, Berríos Portela replied that “we will be in constant communication with LUMA, the Electric Power Authority, the Energy Bureau and the Public-Private Partnerships Authority to make sure that we can triangulate all that information and have information that is totally accurate.”
“Yes, we will also at the same time be carrying out communications and liaison with mayors, with different ‘stakeholders’ [including bondholders], interested parties that are watching and are waiting for the system to improve,” he said. “It is evident, really when we have an answer to an energy situation we see it. We know the reaction, we can monitor it not only with the metrics provided by [LUMA], but with the metrics that the Energy Bureau can generate for us. We know the inconvenience that people have, we know the dissatisfaction they have with the lack of services and we are going to be very attentive to all those metrics that they are giving us so we can compare and make sure that it is correct information.”
“I’m going to make sure that I get the right information,” he added. “And if I have to deny any information that has been published, you can trust that I will be doing so.”
Chief of Staff Noeli García Bardales said Berríos Portela will monitor daily the efforts made by PREPA, LUMA Energy, P3A and the Energy Bureau “to intertwine them with each other to ensure that there is constant monitoring.”
“Not only of metrics, as the [Energy] Bureau does, but of operations,” she added. “There’s going to be a person who’s going to be specifically dedicated to this monitoring.”
Meanwhile, P3A Executive Director Fermín Fontanés Gómez said LUMA has complied with 85% of their metrics.
“You have to look at different areas. The metrics they have not met are the important ones such as the duration of blackouts,” the official said in public hearings Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Juan Zaragoza, to investigate the LUMA Energy contract. “In their entirety they comply, compared to PREPA, that has not complied with about 48% with generation.”
In addition, he said, LUMA is failing in critical measures and communication.
“I would give it a 6.5, because there are important metrics that they are meeting and are easy to meet, as the Electric Power Authority has never done,” Fontanés said, responding to a question from Zaragoza on what grade he would give LUMA on a scale of one to 10. “It’s positive that the phone response time is less than a minute, but the duration of the blackouts is unacceptable. They have to improve the metrics that touch us as citizens.”
Also on Thursday, Puerto Rico Teachers Association (AMPR by its Spanish initials) President Víctor Manuel Bonilla Sánchez and teachers union secretary general Ángel Javier Pérez Hernández said that as an essential part of Puerto Rican society the school system is a victim of the electrical energy crisis besetting the island.
“From the AMPR we join the collective call and we ask the government to take the indispensable action necessary and watch over as they must those who provide our valuable [electricity],” the education leaders said. “This crisis, without a doubt, also is affecting the educational process of our children and youth. There can’t be good learning if school hours are affected by constant blackouts or if our students can’t complete their homework because they are in constant darkness.”