Puerto Rico Energy Commission to investigate cause of grid’s collapse
SAN JUAN – After remaining out of the limelight, the Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC), the regulator of the local energy sector, launched a probe into the causes of the collapse of the island’s electrical grid during Hurricane Maria’s passage Sept. 20.
The investigation was announced by PREC interim Chairman José Román. Electrical field experts and workers at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) have said lack of maintenance contributed to the collapse of the energy grid.
“The probe has two fundamental purposes. First, we want to identify the measures and actions that in the short term can facilitate the task of restoring electric service. Secondly, we want to take the necessary measures that, in the medium and long terms, can help modernize and strengthen its infrastructure to make it less susceptible to atmospheric events and to develop a self-sustainable, cost-effective energy model that results in reliable electric service,” Román said in a statement.
The probe comes after Prepa awarded a contract of up to $300 million to the small Montana firm Whitefish Energy, which reportedly only had two employees. The governor recently appointed the director of contracting strategy at the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority to oversee the public utility’s purchasing and materials division.
Román said the probe is divided in four areas: the state of the grid after María; implementation of regulatory actions to facilitate restoration of the electric service and encourage deployment of new technologies, including distributed generation and microgrids; a new energy model; and analysis of the effects of the events on Prepa’s integrated resource plan, a blueprint for the utility’s future projects.
Prepa has said it needs more than 1,000 crews and equipment to rebuild the infrastructure.
On the subject of new energy models, PREC said it wants to identify the available market structures, analyze their viability in Puerto Rico and determine the regulatory actions the commission must take to make them a reality.
“We are living a historic moment when we have the unique opportunity to redefine our current model and resurface with a new energy model that encourages investment and economic development that guarantees quality service at fair and reasonable prices, ensures equitable access to energy services and, above all, promotes innovation in the energy industry,” Román said.