• The San Juan Daily Star

Ex-Housing chief Gil-Enseñat named new PREPA board chairman

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Governing Board Chairman Fernando Gil-Enseñat

By John McPhaul

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) Governing Board, during an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday, selected former Housing Secretary Fernando Gil-Enseñat as the new chairman of the governing board, after Ralph Kreil Rivera announced his resignation from the position and from the board on Monday.

“We are grateful to engineer Kreil for the years that he dedicated to this Board with great commitment and the leadership that he exercised to direct our work,” Vice President David Owens said on behalf of the governing board in a written statement. “We wish him every success in his new professional challenges.”

Owens said Gil-Enseñat has the full backing of the governing board to serve as chairman from now on and to continue advancing Puerto Rico’s energy transformation agenda.

“I appreciate the confidence of my colleagues on the governing board in selecting me as chairman,” Gil-Enseñat said. “I have always had the commitment to work for Puerto Rico and I accepted to be part of this board because I recognize that the energy area is a high priority for the economic development of the island and the well being of citizens. So, beyond titles or positions, my commitment is the same since I accepted this challenge and it is to advance the process so that Puerto Rico has an efficient and reliable energy system.”

Prior to joining the PREPA Governing Board, Gil-Enseñat served as director in the infrastructure area of the consulting firm Álvarez & Marsal, in Washington, D.C. He was secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Housing, before being dismissed by then-Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced, as well as chairman of the boards of the Public Housing Administration and Housing Financing Authority, a member of the Puerto Rico Land Administration board, and vice chairman of the PREPA board, where he collaborated in the conceptualization and development of the modernization plan for the electrical grid.

Gil-Enseñat is currently a member of the board of directors of the Home Builder Institute and is part of the disaster recovery task force of the Bipartisan Policy Council, both in Washington, D.C.

He holds a Juris Doctor degree from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Puerto Rico, and a master’s degree in international corporate law from Washington College of Law at American University in Washington, D.C. He is licensed to practice law in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the United States District Court in Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, in comments earlier Tuesday on Kreil’s resignation, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia slammed PREPA for “crass incompetence.”

At the same time, the governor supported LUMA Energy’s work on the island, stating that the company is in charge of the distribution and transmission of energy and not the power generation fleet.

“In the case of LUMA, we have been monitoring and will continue to monitor LUMA so that it fulfills its mission, which is to deal with the transmission and distribution of energy,” Pierluisi said. “LUMA actually shows its face to the clients of the Authority and I am not surprised that everyone is very upset with these blackouts and that they complain to LUMA.”

Regarding LUMA’s refusal to deliver information requested by the House of Representatives and the fact that the Puerto Rico Supreme Court has already ordered the delivery of documents, the governor said “[w]hat LUMA is protecting is the personnel who work for LUMA.”

“The decision is in the hands of the Supreme Court,” he said. “LUMA has to comply with the law; it has to comply with what the Supreme Court said at the time.”

Also earlier Tuesday, PREPA announced that some 86,875 people around the island were without electricity.

LUMA Energy, for its part, announced that it is in the process of another limited generation event.

Humacao, Trujillo Alto, Bayamón, Dorado, Jayuya, Guaynabo are some of the municipalities where energy subscribers reported lack of service.

Service interruptions have been reported since at least Sunday, when PREPA blamed sargassum, a type of seaweed, for a breakdown at the Aguirre Power Plant in Salinas. To this was added another failure on Monday at the Palo Seco plant in Toa Baja. At the Costa Sur plant in Peñuelas, meanwhile, PREPA has been facing problems since August.

Pierlusi said Tuesday morning that more changes were coming to PREPA to end the blackouts.

“PREPA has grossly failed the people of Puerto Rico,” the governor said on Telemundo’s “Hoy Día Puerto Rico” program. “There is no way back and yesterday the chairman of PREPA’s governing board [Kreil] resigned, and I am sure that more changes are coming, whatever changes may be necessary for these blackouts to end and so that we do not have an increase in the cost of electricity as a result of the blackouts.”

“There is no way to justify so many breakdowns at the same time in the plants and even less so that two plants were spoiled by sargassum … please,” Pierluisi continued. “These are basic maintenance tasks that the Authority can provide, so there has been a managerial failure and yesterday [Monday] we already had the change at the highest level of authority, which is the chairman of [PREPA’s] governing board.”

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