LUMA Energy says emergency response plan has been delivered
By The Star Staff
LUMA Energy, the private operator of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) transmission and distribution (T&D) system, denied allegations that the government exempted it from having an emergency response plan, arguing that it submitted one to the island energy regulator.
“A copy of said plan was delivered to the Public-Private Partnerships Authority, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau and to the legislative commissions that have requested it. LUMA has been ready since June 1 to respond to Puerto Rico in an emergency,” the firm said. “In fact, this happened on June 10 after the incident that caused a large fire in the Monacillo substation, an emergency to which LUMA responded effectively, managing to restore service to affected customers in 26 hours. The company has the resources, manpower, and knowledge to serve Puerto Ricans in any scenario that affects the system.”
Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez told LUMA Energy President & CEO Wayne Stensby at a House Economic Development Committee hearing Wednesday that the legislative body will go to court to obtain information from the firm.
Stensby at the hearing declined to answer numerous questions from the House committee, such as the name of the person in charge of customer service, the locations of the company’s telephone customer service centers, or a list of PREPA employees who opted to work with the private operator.
The LUMA Energy president, who appeared at the hearing with his adviser José Pérez, charged that LUMA Energy workers were being harassed by opponents of the operation and management agreement and that he was trying to protect them.
Since LUMA took over PREPA’s T&D system on June 1, there have been numerous power outages, and critics have complained that the company, which is slated to bill PREPA $115 million in service fees, has been unresponsive when it comes to repairs. PREPA has been in bankruptcy since 2017 to restructure some $9 billion in debt.
The House launched a probe into the operations of the company amid complaints about its slowness and unresponsiveness in repairing power outages.
Stensby acknowledged that while the firm has 195 brigades that are divided into transmission, repairs, storm examination teams and orders for the connection of new lines, only 17 brigades are dealing with power outages and performing repairs in the 78 municipalities.
Committee Chairman Luis Raúl Torres Cruz said LUMA Energy was hired to maintain a reliable electricity transmission and distribution service, to recruit trained personnel to manage the system, and to maintain effective communications with the different branches.
“Are these obligations I just mentioned true?” Torres Cruz asked. Stensby replied: “Yes, our obligations are with the distribution and transmission of energy.”
Stensby said LUMA has more than 2,550 employees and that it complies with the energy agreement. Of the total, 2,220 employees were hired and 265 came from parent companies ALCO and Quanta Services. He said he has 440 linemen.
Who pays those employees who come from the parent companies? Torres Cruz asked.
“The vast majority are being paid by the rates paid by LUMA subscribers,” Stensby replied.
Pérez said the company operates three call centers.
Regarding the recent fire at the Monacillos substation in Río Piedras that left thousands without power, LUMA reported that they are still conducting a forensic analysis. Stensby stressed that they have not yet received formal notifications from the FBI and the Puerto Rico Police Bureau about investigations they have carried out.