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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

PREPA, LUMA didn’t discuss ‘complex’ grid segregation ahead of Fiona

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Executive Director Josué Colón Ortiz

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and LUMA Energy did not have any discussion at all about segregating the energy grid system to avoid an islandwide blackout like the one that occurred during Hurricane Fiona’s passage on Sept. 18.

The admission was made by PREPA Executive Director Josué Colón Ortiz during PREPA’s monthly board meeting in response to a question from consumer representative Tomás Torres Placa.

The consumer representative noted that the energy grid is interconnected as power lines go from power plants in the south to the north. If the system is not segregated and a power line from the south fails, it impacts the ones in the north unless some of the power substations are segregated. Torres Placa then asked Colón Ortiz if there was a coordination to segregate the system.

Colón Ortiz replied that such coordination was not made but he noted that it is a complex operation. “It is correct that certain areas can be isolated,” he said. “To achieve that operation, you must do certain operations in a manual fashion prior to the event, in a well-coordinated fashion to avoid undesired consequences. You have to balance the loads when you disconnect.”

“Segregating is always an option but we should be able to do it remotely in a safe manner,” Colón Ortiz said.

He said LUMA Energy did coordinate with PREPA on the elimination of the automatic shutdown of lines to avoid damages in the system, but not the segregation or isolation of the grid by areas.

When Category 3 Hurricane Hugo hit the eastern part of the island in 1989, the western part of the island did not suffer power outages because the system had been segregated in preparation for the storm.

Asked why the coordination was not done this time, Torres Placa replied that the problem now is the lack of a government policy for adequate preparation. He also said Act 120 of 2018 strips PREPA from determining public policy and gave the Public-Private Partnership Authority (P3A) the power to make public policy determinations.

The P3A has been criticized for failing to adequately supervise LUMA Energy, whose officials often do not show up for PREPA meetings.

“The Energy Bureau should investigate,” Torres Placa said.

Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz said the House already passed legislation giving PREPA the power to supervise the LUMA Energy contract, but the Senate has placed it in limbo.

He urged Torres Placa to go to the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau and file a complaint on behalf of consumers “instead of complaining to the media.”

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