Saturday, January 25, 2020

Puerto Rico’s new law to allow to privatize power grid

Puerto Rico is officially moving to privatize and upgrade its outdated power grid exactly 9 months after it was flattened by Hurricane Maria.

At a press conference on last week, Governor Ricardo Rosselló signed into law the approved legislation that allows parts of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority – known as PREPA in English and AEE in Spanish – to be sold to private entities. The “power authority” has been a monopoly that practically abandoned maintenance of the electrical system’s infrastructure over the past decade.

Customers in Puerto Rico have been paying nearly double compared to those in the U.S. for unreliable service that has resulted in multiple blackouts across the island in the past months, even after post-hurricane repairs. Over 5,000 households in Puerto Rico are living without power since Hurricane Maria.

During his announcement, Rosselló described Puerto Rico’s current power system as an expensive, oil- dependent, polluting grid that’s three decades older than an average U.S. electrical utility. He said these factors have hurt economic development efforts in the island and he hopes to change the pattern the new law.

While some public officials at the conference described the move as a “patriotic effort,” critics of the energy reform law think that privatization efforts will cause increases in energy costs. Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, president of Puerto Rico’s electrical workers’ union known as UTIER, expressed these concerns.

“We consider that access to electricity – as are access to health, food, education and work — is a fundamental human right that facilitates the population’s consumption of essential and life-sustaining goods,” said Figueroa Jaramillo. “The people have lost confidence in the government of Puerto Rico, a government that hides the real number of deaths due to Hurricane Maria and that hides the true intentions of privatization,” he said.

NBC NEWS