FEMA approves $107 million to strengthen PR’s electrical system
By John McPhaul
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Monday that Puerto Rico’s electricity generation, transmission and distribution system is on its way to becoming more robust with the approval of funds for 15 projects under FEMA’s Accelerated Awards Strategy, known as FAASt.
The projects represent more than $107.3 million in approved federal funding to kickstart what FEMA said will become a more reliable electrical grid for all Puerto Rico residents. In addition to the 15 projects, an architecture and engineering project was approved in October of last year.
“Today we are once again demonstrating that both federal and state government agencies, as well as the private sector, have a common purpose in order for Puerto Rico’s reconstruction to continue moving forward,” said Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, who was in Washington, D.C. last week and spoke with U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm about the reconstruction and resiliency of the island’s electrical grid.
FEMA’s Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator for Puerto Rico José G. Baquero noted that “[s]o far, we have approved an additional $9.2 million in mitigation funding for energy projects.”
“This will take time, but we are focused on the goal of an unprecedented recovery,” the FEMA official said.
Two projects that stand out are for the Aguirre power plant facility, which is part of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) generation system. Over $13.4 million in approved funds will go toward installing filtration equipment for the wastewater treatment system as well as for the water pump condenser. Those improvements will help increase energy production and are essential elements for a more reliable grid, the officials said.
Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency Executive Director Manuel Laboy Rivera said repairs at the Mayagüez and Aguirre power plants in Salinas “are on track.”
“Meanwhile, the public lighting projects are about to begin, which include the replacement of public light poles, photocells, lighting units and other components,” he said. “These projects have an estimated cost of $90.7 million.”
In addition to the FAASt projects, another $8.7 million was awarded for PREPA’s Costa Sur facility to address damage caused by the 2020 earthquakes. Reconstruction at the site, which has the capacity to generate about one third of the island’s power, is almost complete, the officials said.
As for projects related to the transmission and distribution system, managed by LUMA Energy, funds were recently approved to repair distribution feeders in Caguas and Ponce. Both systems transfer energy to businesses, homes and other facilities. Moreover, FEMA assigned funds for work at substations to replace circuit breakers and other equipment that help prevent short circuits and other hazards that cause service interruptions. In addition, a federal share of over $20.9 million was approved to modernize and strengthen the Cataño substation.
To date, FEMA has obligated over $11.7 billion to PREPA for emergency and permanent work projects related to Hurricane Maria and the 2020 earthquakes.