Pierluisi: PREPA’s privatization will resolve island’s power issues
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
As some parts of Puerto Rico continue facing power outages since LUMA Energy took control of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) transmission and distribution system for the next 15 years, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urritia insisted Monday that failures will be a thing of the past once the administration privatizes the utility’s generation system.
“Right now, there is a process of requesting proposals for private entities with the highest reputation to come in and operate the authority’s assets, optimize them and operate them with the greatest efficiency,” Pierluisi said during a press conference at La Fortaleza.
“This should be completed. I hope before the end of the year, we reach agreements on a proposal, whether it is one, two, or three entities who will manage the utility’s generators,” the governor added.
Once again, Pierluisi insisted on his plan to replace the island’s electricity generation with renewable energy that seeks to combine sources such as natural gas and solar energy “enforcing our Power Public Policy Act,” he said.
“The solution here, in the medium and long term, is to totally transform the Authority,” the governor said. “We already transformed [the island’s] energy transmission and distribution, now we must transform the generation.”
He said further that the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB) must maintain oversight on LUMA Energy’s price hike requests, including the one submitted last Thursday claiming loss of income from power outages.
The second request, if it were to be approved, would increase power rates by 16.4%.
“This is not a political question, this is in the PREB’s hands with their expertise to consider a price hike every three months,” Pierluisi said.
However, the governor noted that the only argument to justify a price hike in the power bill and for the PREB to authorize it “has to be from the result of something inevitable, as some costs that were already incurred for fuel purchases or a spike in fuel prices.”
His statements came after LUMA Energy last Wednesday filed a second review request at the Puerto Rico Supreme Court in an ongoing attempt to hold back information requested by Popular Democratic Party Rep. Luis Raúl Torres amid an allegation of possible conflicts of interest between the private consortium’s board of directors and the Pierluisi administration.
As transparency continues to be a matter of contention with LUMA Energy, a Trujillo Alto community consisting of 20 families had no power from Tuesday until late Friday.
In regard to how privatizing the utility’s generation system would help improve the island’s power service issues given that LUMA Energy has demonstrated a lack of transparency when it comes to access to information, the governor said LUMA must answer for its own actions.
“What we had before was a disaster; therefore, there can only be an improvement here,” he said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement; we don’t want to do the same thing over, we have transformed the transmission and distribution system and we will continue to keep oversight on LUMA so they fulfill their goal.”
When the STAR asked if the private operator is responding properly, Pierluisi insisted “LUMA must respond, and each time, they will respond as requested.”