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Puerto Rico legislature seeks to create public-private power generation projects

By on January 24, 2018

SAN JUAN – At a time when the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) future is being discussed, the Public-Private Partnerships Authority (PPPA) stressed on Tuesday that the evaluation and feasibility processes of projects to convert generating units to natural gas or renewable energy sources has begun.

According to a press release, the PPPA’s Mara Pérez said that four proposals, identified as “unsolicited,” have been evaluated and submitted by private proponents, and are undergoing technical, legal and economic evaluation and feasibility processes.

“In the central natural gas facilities at the [powerplants] Palo Seco [in Cataño] and Costa del Sur [in Guayanilla], and Prepa’s Renewable Energy Project are already part of the priority projects the PPPA has identified,” she added. The unsolicited proposals include natural gas-generating units with Puma Energy and Teampeaker Puerto Rico and of renewable sources with Cube Hydro and Tesla Inc.

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The statements were made at a joint public hearing of the House Government and Economic Development, Planning, Telecommunications, Public-Private Partnerships & Energy committees, chaired by Reps. Jorge Navarro and Víctor Páres, respectively, and were related to House Joint Resolution 232, which orders Prepa’s government board and executive director to submit projects to the PPPA for energy generation.

The legislation–authored by Reps. Antonio Soto, Eddie Charbonier, Juan Morales, Luis Pérez, Navarro Suárez, Páres Otero and Rep. Yashira Lebrón–establishes that the PPPA will be responsible to conduct the analysis and feasibility studies needed to determine if it is advisable to complete the power generation project as a partnership.

Francisco J. Rullán, executive director of the State Office of Public Energy Policy (OEPPE by its Spanish acronym), endorsed the measure and said “the resolution proposes actions in accordance with the public energy policy of the Government of Puerto Rico. At OEPPE, we understand the adoption of the measure is prudent, necessary and desirable.”

During the question period, the chairman of the Government Committee stated, in view of the new scenario presented by the governor of Puerto Rico regarding privatization and the clear determination of the island’s fiscal control board requesting Prepa for new alternatives, the OEPPE is required to clarify what the unit’s public policy will be and whether it will focus on partnerships.

Rullán clarified that testimony is found in the measure’s analysis and “the public policy of our Governor is the democratization of energy, and consumers are who choose based on their needs.”

Joel Ayala, adviser to Prepa’s Opinions, Legislation & Contracts Division, said the given testimony is based on a study of the legislative measure, which he believes has become largely academic after the governor announced Prepa’s privatization.

Soto, one of the authors of the resolution, said “the announcement made [Monday] by the governor was in harmony with the spirit of this measure. It was an announcement in tune with the expressions we made Sept. 18 about Prepa’s deficiency levels. Last September, we recognized the level of deficiency of our energy system, and [on Monday] the governor, in his expressions, recognized it and established the transformation of the energy system.”

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