PREPA’s appointed executive director summoned to House hearing

By The Star Staff

House Energy Committee Chairman Víctor Parés Otero has summoned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) Executive Director Efran Paredes Maisonet to a hearing where he’ll be asked to explain the utility’s plans for carrying out PREPA’s transformation and increasing the use of renewable energy sources as well as answer questions about the contract with LUMA Energy and the utility’s retirement system.

The hearing comes after Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced threw her support to Paredes in a letter to PREPA’s board, and amid controversy around the contract with LUMA Energy to operate the utility’s transmission and distribution (T&D) system. PREPA, which has been in bankruptcy since 2017, has asked the U.S. District Court to give administrative priority over other debt to the $135 million yearly fee that will be paid to the consortium. LUMA, meanwhile, has not provided employment guarantees to the utility’s workers.

It also comes after the Financial Oversight and Management Board rejected 16 contracts for renewable energy that had been renegotiated and after the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau approved a new integrated resource plan, which is the blueprint for the island’s long-term energy needs.

Parés Otero said the hearing is slated for Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Capitol.

“It is urgent to know the execution plans of the official at this crucial stage for the Authority, but more importantly, that all the provisions established in Law 17 of 2019 are complied with, which includes employment guarantees for all employees of the Authority during the transition process toward the public-private partnership with LUMA Energy,” Parés Otero said in a statement.

Ottmar Chávez, director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience, was also summoned to the hearing.

Parés Otero specified that among the challenges and pending issues Paredes faces at PREPA are continuing the transition with the LUMA Energy consortium, which starting in May 2021 will be in charge of the administration and operation of PREPA’s T&D system, and the restoration of the electrical grid after the passage of Hurricane Maria.

He added that the execution of an aggressive work plan for the untangling and pruning of trees around power lines throughout the island is urgent.

“It is necessary to know the execution plans that the new executive director has in all these areas, so that the transformation of PREPA, which is essential for Puerto Rico to have a more stable and safe energy system, not only in hurricane season but at all times, is achieved,” Parés Otero said.