• The Star Staff

PREPA submits plan to FEMA for use of funds

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) on Monday submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the first of several plans detailing the use of about $10.5 billion to repair the island power grid.

The information was provided by PREPA spokeswoman Edith Seda, who said the report will not be made public just yet. The submitted a 10-year-plan, the Star has learned.

The island government in September received $12.8 billion in federal recovery and reconstruction funds, of which $10.5 billion was approved for infrastructure work at PREPA while about $2.2 billion is slated to go to the Education Department.

The money assigned to PREPA will help repair some 63 power generation structures, 339 power substations, 53 transmission centers, 12 mobile stations, more than 45,000 light poles, 18,000 transformers, over 3,000 miles of distribution lines and 5,000 transmission poles, according to information provided at the time.

The funds were assigned under Section 428 of the Stafford Act, a law that constitutes the statutory authority for most federal disaster programs.

The repairs will cover 19 dams with hydroelectric power plants, including the dredging of 11 of those reservoirs and nine irrigation canals.

The FEMA funds will be used to bring PREPA’s electrical system up to standards capable of withstanding a Category 4 hurricane.

A statement from the White House at the time the assignment was made said the funds would allow PREPA to “repair and replace thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines, electrical substations, power generation systems, office buildings, and make other grid improvements.”

In August, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau approved PREPA’s Integrated Resource Plan, directing the procurement of at least 3.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar and 1.36 GW of battery storage by 2025. The decision also rejected PREPA’s plan for a new liquefied natural gas terminal and gas-fired generation, instead directing the utility to utilize an all-source procurement to speed development of carbon-free resources.

PREPA is in the midst of restructuring its debt following its declaration of bankruptcy in 2017. The utility’s current balance sheet contains unsustainable debt that precludes the issuance of bonds to raise capital for infrastructure improvements. In addition, the devastation of Hurricane Maria left unprecedented damages that require significant mitigation to protect Puerto Rico’s energy system from future natural disasters.

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