Lawmaker: Get ready for more electricity rate hikes
By The Star Staff
After LUMA Energy sought a hike in energy prices of 4.1 cents per kilowatt-hour because of a deficit caused by fuel purchases, independent Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz said that is only the beginning as energy customers should brace themselves for more hikes in the future.
Torres Cruz, who has been investigating the contract between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and the private operator of its transmission and distribution system, said this week that the utility’s debt restructuring would result in more rate hikes.
“On that base rate, which is the one that the Authority has to cover its operations with, is where the increase will come,” Torres Cruz said. “Which comes from the negotiations toward the restructuring of the Electric Power Authority debt to pay its bondholders, and that is another increase that is close to coming to us on the bill as well.”
There have been at least seven other rate increases over the past year.
The latest request from LUMA Energy seeks a rate hike to cover a deficit of $92.8 million for fuel purchases in July.
Torres Cruz said he was already anticipating an increase after a reduction in the bill a few weeks ago. He insisted that another rate hike would come later with the debt adjustment plan, although the latest base-rate increase will come before that increase, he said.
“That two-cent discount they gave us became salt and water,” the legislator said. “It makes sense to me since Genera PR came in and all these things that are happening, you know that there have been many load relays, and this is because Genera PR is not producing enough energy. It is below demand. It is below the reserves that it has to have. That makes LUMA unable to properly distribute energy.”
Torres Cruz said Genera PR, the company in charge of generation, has used emergency plants, which use diesel, the most expensive fuel. In addition, it is inefficient as it needs federal funds to repair power generation plants.
Popular Democratic Party Rep. Ángel Matos García said in a statement that the contract with LUMA Energy should be canceled as it will result in an uncontrollable hike in energy rates.
“This hike is an abuse against the people and the economy,” he said.
On Thursday, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said the increase LUMA is seeking from the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau for the next quarter is not justified.
“I do not see, I do not understand what the justification is for this increase,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “The bureau is going to have the last word, but nobody wants an increase” in their electricity bill.
Pierluisi noted that although generators that use diesel fuel were used to meet the demand for power, there are savings due to the implementation of emergency generators approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In addition, he said, it is the federal agency that assumes the fuel costs of those generators, which also represents savings.