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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

La Fortaleza: An energy emergency is already in effect, and LUMA must act like it

LUMA Energy has said there is a problem with a transformer at the Useras substation in Santa Isabel that will take time to fix.

By The Star Staff

Outrage directed against LUMA Energy because of blackouts plaguing Puerto Rico continued to grow on Thursday with calls for an energy emergency.

Francisco Berríos Portela, assistant secretary of energy affairs at La Fortaleza, said Puerto Rico has been in a state of infrastructure emergency since hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

“The government has been trying to facilitate permits and with FEMA,” he said. “LUMA has to respond to these complaints.”

Although LUMA has the responsibility of responding to blackout situations, recent problems have arisen, such as in municipalities including Coamo and Santa Isabel, where load relief is expected to be in effect for up to four weeks, as LUMA President & CEO Juan Saca said Thursday. That means that energy service will be rotated. LUMA has said there is a problem with a transformer that will take time to fix.

“That is not acceptable,” Berríos Portela said. “They have the tools. … They have given assurances that they have installed temporary generators.”

Despite having resources and staff, LUMA has faced criticism for its performance and the need for more transparency regarding the number of employees.

“They have to make the adjustments needed to stabilize service,” Berríos Portela said. “They have to improve.”

The La Fortaleza official also noted that LUMA has exposed itself to penalties and fines for poor performance, but has not received bonuses, which go up to $20 million. He said LUMA has received penalties for its performance.

LUMA has said that the problems in Coamo and Santa Isabel should be stabilized by the weekend with the power generators.

Berríos Portela’s assertions followed statements of concern on Wednesday night by Coamo Mayor Juan Carlos García Padilla about the “bureaucratic” vision of LUMA directors, after he and his counterparts from Santa Isabel and Aibonito met with top LUMA officials about the electrical breakdown that has kept the three towns in the dark since last Saturday.

“We are more concerned every day about the electrical system and the ability to respond that we have in the operational or managerial mentality that LUMA has [when it comes] to events like this,” García Padilla said. “They are very bureaucratic, or they want to solve it with permanent projects when there is an emergency that must be resolved, as we said there, AEE [Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority]-style. It must be resolved.”

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