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Puerto Rico manufacturers paying for poles, cables for electric grid recovery

By on November 3, 2017

SAN JUAN – Manufacturing companies are paying for utility poles and cables to assist in the process to restore their electric service, said Rodrigo Masses, president of the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (PRMA).

“These investment plans are being made throughout the island. Manufacturing, which is the sector that spends the most in energy, is paying [for these supplies], so they can then charge us again,” he told Caribbean Business during an interview about the state of Puerto Rico’s manufacturing sector, more than 40 days after the passage of Hurricane María.

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In an interview from Washington, Masses refused to reveal the names of the manufacturing industries that are paying for materials to help restore the energy service. Caribbean Business requested information from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) about these companies but the utility has yet to respond.

As for manufacturing losses, Masses said they have contingency plans as part of their operations, such as having a redundancy in inventories to ensure supply, distribution and services, as well as insurance to cover income losses. However, these plans also depend on being adequately secure about the restoration process for electric service.

“It’s still too early to determine the amount of damage because the faucet of damage is still open,” he said in the interview.

Nearly all local manufacturers are operating with generators. Some companies have already revealed they will have expenses in the hundreds of millions of dollars due to the hurricane. Even so, their losses will be lower than those in the retail sector.

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The Retail Trade Association estimates losses in its sector could reach $8 billion over six months if service is not restored. The United Retailers Association (CUD by its Spanish acronym) estimates that 10% of the island’s more than 50,000 retailers will not be able to operate again.

The PRMA has been an ardent critic of Prepa because, despite being a monopoly, it has not effectively maintained the electrical system, thus the association supports the privatization of Prepa.

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