Lawmaker says Puerto Rico power utility jobs safe after privatization bill passed
SAN JUAN – Rep. Víctor Pares assured Tuesday that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) “transformation bill” guarantees the public corporation workers’ jobs. He also said some 20 companies have the financial capacity to acquire the utility’s generation assets.
“Yes, sir, there is protection for employees. The guarantee is in the bill. When the final agreements of the transaction are made, that goes back to the House and Senate. Although the bill clearly states it in a black and white article, if when the transaction reaches the Legislative Assembly we see that no guarantees appear, we’ll say no to the agreement. It’s as simple as that,” Pares said in a WKAQ radio interview.
The bill has several clauses stipulating that the power company’s employees have several options, Pares said, including that they work for the company that acquires the utility’s power generation capacity; move to another government agency or resort to one of the public-private partnerships (PPP). With the three options, employees’ fringe benefits are guaranteed, the lawmaker assured.
The House of Representatives concurred Monday with the Senate amendments to House Bill 1481, which creates the “Law to Transform the Puerto Rico Electric System.”
“Now it goes to the governor for his signature so it becomes law for the beginning of this process of a public corporation that was a monopoly, after 70 years of service to the people of Puerto Rico. Now we are finally going to see new electric power generation with a stronger, more resilient electrical service and, obviously, that the country has the certainty that its price per kilowatt-hour is a fair price for all the people of Puerto Rico,” said Pares, who is chairman of the Economic Development, Planning, Telecommunications, Public-Private Partnerships and Energy Committee.
Pares said the transaction is estimated to be completed in a year and a half.
“They already started last week to…search for options,” he added. “There are some 20 companies with the economic capacity for this type of transaction. They have already been invited. When the bill is enacted, it becomes more formal. The timeframe is about 18 months. After that, the agreement reached with the company that acquires the generation…returns to the Legislative Assembly for final approval.”
The measure allows or the privatization of the utility’s electric power generation, while its transmission and distribution will be handled by a concessionaire as a public-private partnership.
Pares also said the Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC) will review the transaction to ensure reasonable power rates.
“Personally, I believe that the minimum reasonable price is 20 cents per kilowatt-hour,” he said. “The idea with the regulatory framework that is going to be approved is that it will be clear that the generation must be for a not too far period, leaving behind oil and looking for alternatives to benefit the environment and that will obviously improve the kilowatt-hour price.”
He also said the legislation establishes the creation of a committee with members from the legislative and executive branches who will work alongside the Southern States Energy Board to review the regulatory framework. The committee would have 180 days to make recommendations on the framework and energy policy.