State of island energy system is focus of economic forum
The forum included panel discussions on the current state of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority debt, including the history of the debt itself and how the existing state of affairs was reached. (Richard Gutiérrez/The San Juan Daily Star)
By RICHARD GUTIÉRREZ
The Institute of Competition and Economic Sustainability (ICES) and the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (PRMA) held a press forum on Wednesday where the current situation regarding the energy system in Puerto Rico was discussed.
“The situation regarding the Puerto Rico energy system is very complex, quite difficult,” said attorney Fernando AgraitI, one of the panelists at the event. “The system has been deteriorating for many years; however, with the right minds on the job, things can change.”
Both organizations have been active participants in the judicial process of restructuring the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) debt and to implement an adjustment plan that promotes the economic and social development of Puerto Rico and abides by the mandates of Bill 17-2019. They have been active leaders with respect to electrical system matters in Puerto Rico for over 10 years and have been pushing for an adjustment plan that promotes economic and social development on the island.
“We must keep the people informed and educated, and educate the private sector about the current processes in the [U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor] Swain [federal Title III bankruptcy] court and the possible costs of the electricity bill in the years 2023 and 2024,” said PRMA Vice President Yandia Pérez. “In the same light, we must encourage the private sector to continue participating in the multisectoral efforts in favor of an adjustment plan that promotes economic viability, that speeds up the processes of public policy and is not detrimental to the consumer.”
The forum was attended by people from many different economic sectors and by different members of the community. Many of them aired their concerns and made recommendations regarding the electric power situation in Puerto Rico. They also expressed their commitment to work collaboratively to find solutions that promote economic growth, sustainability, and a better life for the people of Puerto Rico.
The conference included panel discussions on the current state of the PREPA debt, including the history of the debt itself and how it got to the existing state of affairs. The new proposed fiscal plan for PREPA issued by the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico states that the utility’s debt has been reduced from $5.6 billion to $2.3 billion, which the panel saw as a victory for the general economy of the island. However, the purpose of the panel was to examine the adjustment plan and its possible consequences for the consumer. It was stated that even though the new fiscal plan reduces the cost of the debt to $2.3 billion, the plan needs to have its validity examined, along with the expected rise in the cost of the electricity bill, all this while the judicial processes of the Title III court continue to unfold.
Regarding the revised fiscal plan proposed by the oversight board, the panel analyzed possible economic impacts that could come from its implementation. The experts evaluated the short- and long-term effects of the cost of the electricity bill for consumers, apart from its implications on the industrial and corporate development of Puerto Rico.
The importance of finding a balance between economic sustainability and the need to promote a trustworthy and quality electrical service for all parts of Puerto Rican society was emphasized throughout the event.