Rally against grid operator slated for today at Golden Mile

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

Labor and community organizations are calling on islanders to join a demonstration today at 10 a.m. in the Golden Mile financial district in Hato Rey to repudiate the 15-year public-private partnership (P3) between LUMA Energy and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).

Under the banner of the All Puerto Rico Against LUMA Coalition, the organizations on Thursday urged islanders to attend the demonstration to be held near the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board office to demand the P3’s repeal along with adequate power service.

Puerto Rico Workers Union spokesperson Reinaldo Colón said that after 17 days since the consortium began to operate the island’s energy transmission and distribution system, “we have confirmed that it has benefited us in nothing.”

“On the contrary, we are seeing how thousands of people have become victims of the privatization policy that is characterized by LUMA Energy’s inexperience and mediocrity,” Colón said. “The [oversight] board, along with their [former] lawyer, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, are responsible for thousands of people facing power outages that last up to 10 days due to the constant blackouts that LUMA does not know how to handle.”

“Pierluisi and the Board are responsible for the accidents that occurred in the recent days, such as the Monacillo [power plant explosion] and the burnt houses in San Sebastián due to voltage problems,” he added. “They will be responsible if any misfortune happens because of the power issues that LUMA does not know how to deal with.”

On Wednesday night, 337,297 clients were off the power grid after malfunctions with Costa Sur Unit 6, San Juan Unit 8 and Mayagüez Unit 3.

Two hours earlier, LUMA Energy reported that there would be “limited generation capacity in the system,” between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. over the next three days due to “ongoing planned maintenance at AES Guayama and other generation facilities.”

However, Electrical Industry and Irrigation Workers Union (UTIER by its Spanish acronym) President Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo called it suspicious that hours before the private consortium made that announcement, “a breakdown occurs in a power unit.”

“If we are going to get into speculation from LUMA, they have not been able to demonstrate the alleged sabotage that occurred at Monacillos power plant,” Figueroa Jaramillo said. “We tell the country who is creating sabotage.”

“How is it possible that LUMA [makes its announcement] at 5 p.m. and an out-of-service unit has gone out of service?” he added. “They even alluded to Mayagüez, and that station did not go out of service.”

The UTIER chief said there were, at press time, around 20,000 subscribers “without service that have nothing to do with power generation.”

“LUMA Energy’s average [number] of subscribers without service daily fluctuates between 20,000 and 30,000 subscribers,” he said. “Under PREPA, the average fluctuated between 1,000 and 2,000 subscribers, and that was unacceptable.”

“What we see here is a scheme to produce hatred in the people and justify what can’t be justified; LUMA has no control over this,” Figueroa Jaramillo added. “LUMA announced bringing 100 line workers from the United States, which proves that they are not complying with the contract; also, who is going to pay for this?”

Meanwhile, Women Against LUMA spokesperson Alexandra Flores urged islanders to join today’s protest as the energy P3, which took effect on June 1, has proved that “living in Puerto Rico is an extreme sports event.”

“If you don’t have the necessary tools, you could lose your life; they violate you, they shut down your schools, you don’t get adequate access to health services, and, now, they are burning our homes,” she said. “This contract is synonymous with death; what we deserve now is to be heard, get PREPA back, and begin producing clean energy for our people.”

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