The San Juan Daily Star
Hiring current plant workers seen as critical to success of Genera PR contract
Sen. Javier Aponte Dalmau
By THE STAR STAFF
The success of the Genera PR contract to operate the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) legacy power plants would depend in great measure on its success in attracting current generation workers and in avoiding a fuel monopoly, Senate Strategic Projects and Energy Committee Chairman Javier Aponte Dalmau said recently.
Genera PR, a subsidiary of New Fortress Energy, will receive a $22.5 million fee to operate, maintain and eventually decommission some 12 power plants, and up to $100 million through a system of performance incentives. As part of Genera PR’s tasks, the contract calls for the creation of a decommissioning budget as a requirement to perform the decommissioning services for the applicable power plant. Unless otherwise approved by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau, the decommissioning budget cannot exceed the sum of all costs related to the performance of the operation and management services for the same legacy asset.
In an interview with the STAR, Aponte Dalmau, who is leading an investigation into the contract, said officials have not taken into account the cost of decommissioning and demolition of the power plants over the 10 years of the contract, which may increase contract costs.
“They have not contemplated the costs or if at the end of the day the company performs the task,” he said.
Aponte Dalmau is worried that a provision in the contract that allows Genera PR to subcontract services may lead to a monopoly in fuel supply. Currently, the firm’s parent company, New Fortress Energy, has a contract to supply natural gas to PREPA. The legislator said that nothing in the contract prevents Genera PR from subcontracting New Fortress to supply other types of fuel or create other subsidiaries to do the same.
“The issue of subcontracts [that the company can enter into] is also a detail that leads us to think that there are no restrictions for this company to become a fuel monopoly on the island,” Aponte Dalmau said.
During a public hearing last week, Aponte Dalmau questioned Public Private Partnership Authority Director Fermín Fontanés Gómez about what controls are in the Genera PR contract regarding risks and the subcontracting that can be expected. Fontanés replied that “we maintain the same controls that are held in the matter of bidding to third parties, if they wanted to participate,” to which Dalmau said: “Then you don’t have any [controls].”
At a recent hearing, Fernando Gil Enseñat, chairman of PREPA’s governing board, highlighted that “one of the most important aspects of the contract was the commitment to PREPA’s plant employees.”
“The operator has the obligation to make a job offer to all the employees of the plants who, as of June 30, 2022, were performing full-time functions and with good standing,” he said.
The contract notes that there are at least 98 critical positions that Genera PR must fill.
“It would be a disaster if Genera can not hire the workers who know how these plants operate and is forced to look for new employees to operate old power plants,” Aponte Dalmau told the STAR, noting that the firm will have the same problems that LUMA Energy, the private operator of PREPA’s transmission and distribution system, has had.
Under the contract, PREPA workers who do not go to Genera PR can choose to move to other government agencies.