• The Star Staff

PREPA to begin grid resiliency process in September

By The Star Staff

The process of making the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) energy grid a resilient one should start in the eastern section of Puerto Rico and the first requests for proposals should come out in September, PREPA Executive Director José Ortiz said Tuesday.

Speaking at a Puerto Rico Grid Revitalization Forum, Ortiz said the grid resiliency projects are slated to start in eastern municipalities, more specifically in the so-called medical device and pharma corridor in the Humacao district.

“The entranceway to all weather events in Puerto Rico is the eastern region,” he noted.

The plan is to bury power lines and possibly substations in the area and near critical facilities such as hospitals and airports.

PREPA already has nine firms working on the designs of the projects, which should be put out for bid by September.

On June 22, PREPA signed a 15-year contract with Luma Energy to operate its transition and distribution system, but the company will also be in charge of customer service, billing, and the net metering program, and will also administer billions of dollars in federal reconstruction funds.

Ortiz said that during the transition period, PREPA will make decisions on where the federal funding will go, but that after 11 months, Luma Energy should take over.

He denied that the contract with Luma will follow the fate of Ondeo, which ceased operations as manager of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) in 2004, less than two years into its contract. Ortiz said he was a member of the committee that put PRASA back in public hands.

The Ondeo contract failed, he said, because the officials were unable to renegotiate collective bargaining agreements and because half of the utility’s revenues depended on government appropriations. He said Ondeo did not have the autonomy needed to make decisions, something Luma Energy has more of.

“We used that experience for this contract,” Ortiz said.

As a matter of fact, the company decided to interview employees directly for its hiring process instead of negotiating with the union. In response to that decision, PREPA workers are launching a one-day work stoppage today.

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