By The Star Staff
LUMA Energy President & CEO Wayne Stensby remains in his position, but the head of the private operator’s parent company said he is conducting internal evaluations.
Quanta Service CEO Duke Austin initially did not say whether Stensby is slated to remain in his position as president of LUMA Energy despite calls by Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia for his removal.
At a press conference, Austin acknowledged having had conversations with the former executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, José Ortiz, but he denied claims that he offered him the position to preside over the energy consortium.
Independent Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz said on Tuesday that Stensby’s days were numbered at LUMA, and several names were even considered as possible candidates to lead the company in charge of the transmission and distribution of energy on the island, including Ortiz’s.
But Austin said Stensby was at the LUMA headquarters in the same capacity that he was before although he stated that they are continuing to evaluate the work team and the strategies to fulfill his responsibility.
The senior executive took responsibility “for what is happening,” but gave assurances that LUMA Energy “is not Wayne Stensby or Austin.”
“The company is the LUMA employees, it’s not me or Wayne,” Austin said.
Asked if he was satisfied with Stensby’s performance, Austin said Stensby “is a very knowledgeable person in matters of electrical utilities and we all have faults.”
“He knows he has faults,” he said.
Austin added that “I am here because we have not met the expectations of the people of Puerto Rico and because I care and want to do better.”
“I am here because I owe it to the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.
Austin spoke at a news conference in which he presented a plan to help reduce power outages that have plagued Puerto Rico.
After the governor made a call for immediate action, the LUMA Energy consortium announced that, in order to deal with the series of large-scale blackouts that have left hundreds of thousands of customers without service over the past two weeks, the firm created the Outage Response and Reduction Initiative, a group led by five engineers.
Austin said he is currently “evaluating” the management team, but did not answer if, in fact, there will be changes in that area.
Also, without elaborating, he said that LUMA would increase its workforce, while assuring that “communication” with clients would be improved.
“We have not communicated with our customers or our constituents in a way that they can see our passion or feel our sincerity,” Austin said.
The Quanta executive announced that Kathy Roure will lead the Disruption Response and Reduction Initiative to help reduce power outages.
“The Outage Reduction and Response Initiative is a specific action plan designed to reduce the frequency and duration of service outages,” Roure said, noting that the measures include a new “operational team” to reduce outages, an increase in brigades and response resources and improved vegetation management.
The deficiencies of the unhooking work, particularly around the transmission lines, have been a main criticism by Pierluisi in recent days. Roure also indicated that LUMA Energy would increase the frequency of inspections at substations and “crucial lines” that serve essential services such as hospitals, and expand aerial patrols.
Pierluisi in written remarks Wednesday said “I have asked for significant changes to LUMA’s execution plan and the corrective actions announced today are in response to that request, because LUMA has to respond to the needs of our people.”
“As Duke Austin, president of Quanta Services, the parent company of LUMA, pointed out, I will not be satisfied until the initiatives announced today have positive results,” the governor said. “Our people can be sure that I will also be vigilant to what happens after Mr. Austin’s evaluation of LUMA’s senior management.”
At a Senate hearing Wednesday to discuss the contract, Sen. Ramón Ruíz Nieves questioned what economic effect it would have if the contract with LUMA were canceled. LUMA is operating under a supplemental agreement that expires Nov. 30 because PREPA remains in bankruptcy.
UTIER President Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo said lawyers told his union that the impact of the cancellation would be zero. He reiterated that if the island government decides to activate the transition clause, it would be zero and they have time to do it.