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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

LUMA requests prudence in power use after 2 units go out at Costa Sur

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi emphasized that the failure of two power generation units at the Costa Sur plant in Guayanilla “was corrected very quickly, which is the important thing.”

By John McPhaul

LUMA Energy on Thursday requested prudence from its customers in the use of electricity after the Costa Sur power plant in Guayanilla faced problems generating energy during the early morning hours.

“As a result of this morning’s loss of generation capacity, generation reserves are at critical levels and are anticipated to remain at a low level until additional generation is connected,” read a LUMA Energy statement on its social media. “To minimize the impact of generation failure, we urge our customers to conserve energy today, especially during peak hours between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.”

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said in Salinas later in the day that the recovery from the incident had been satisfactory.

“The situation was corrected very quickly, which is the important thing. Such failures can arise in generation units. We know that they are outdated, not to say almost obsolete, but the important thing is money, homes,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “And we can ask the question directly to the executive director of the Electric Power Authority. But if you’ve been taking advantage of available FEMA funds, you have several projects in progress and some of those repairs and improvements to the plants have been made, while others are pending.”

“But what I can say about today’s incident is that the important thing was how quickly service was restored, because these situations can happen,” Pierluisi said. “The important thing is that it does not take long for the system to recover.”

According to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), at 3:50 a.m. Thursday, the operator of units 5 and 6 of Costa Sur lost control of the two units, causing both to go out of service.

“The Director of Generation Operations is at the plant to evaluate what happened and return the units to service as soon as possible,” PREPA said on its social media. “This situation caused the activation of charge relay blocks in several areas of PR.”

A day earlier, Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez emerged from a House hearing on LUMA’s performance since the electrical system went down during Hurricane Fiona saying it is evident that a plan for the restoration of electricity and water service was not followed to address the emergency after the storm’s passage.

“That is the most regrettable thing,” the House speaker said as he left Wednesday’s public hearing before the Committee on Economic Development, Planning, Telecommunications, Public-Private Partnerships and Energy. “Hurricanes Irma and Maria passed and here there should be a protocol aligned with those realities of how to prepare.”

At the hearing, LUMA Energy president & CEO Wayne Stensby could not explain how he handled the process of bringing electrical service to the 215 facilities that the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority established as critical.

Hernández Montañez said it is evident that Stensby has no experience in managing an energy system like Puerto Rico’s.

“I think it is evident from what Wayne Stensby has stated that he does not have any kind of experience and that he was not prepared to manage an energy system in the tropics, that there was no effective communication either with the mayors or the aqueduct authority, which is a priority, and not even in writing … a plan that he did not execute because he was not in the field,” the legislator said. “He was left in an air-conditioned office handling administrative matters.”

He also criticized Stensby’s insistence on comparing Hurricane Fiona to Hurricane Maria.

“Characterizing this as something extraordinary truly [shows] he does not know anything about Puerto Rico,” Hernández Montañez said. “It is because this is the way it works in Puerto Rico, as we are in the Caribbean in the path of hurricanes. Every year we will always have the effect of the reality that hurricanes pass through our island.”

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