Puerto Rico Senate places LNG plant under scrutiny
SAN JUAN – At a time when the fragility of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) has worsened, as recent island-wide blackouts seem to suggest, the Senate is preparing to investigate the operation and productivity of Central Costa Sur, one of the four main powerplants used by Puerto Rico’s electric grid.
Senate Vice President Larry Seilhamer, who also presides the Committee on Energy Affairs, introduced Senate Resolution 219 after reports that Costa Sur’s power generation is only half-fueled by natural gas when the objective for several years has been that it be entirely natural-gas-fired.
“The objective was never reached [that] Costa Sur operate mostly 100% with gas and not with oil or its derivatives. That’s what I’m really looking for; it’s going to be useful for us to establish a defined public energy policy with fundamentals,” Seilhamer said.
According to the resolution, units 5 and 6 of the Costa Sur power complex were converted to use natural gas in 2012 to produce cheaper and cleaner energy. However, the transition was never completed and customers’ electric bills could not be lowered.
“It is imperative to consider the effect that the gasification of Central Costa Sur has had in order to have relevant information when considering the viability of energy projects for the island and to invest in the conversion of units,” reads the unanimously endorsed proposal.
The measure was amended to provide that the special committee chaired by Seilhamer will be in charge of investigating the performance of Costa Sur, instead of the Committee on Innovation, Telecommunications, Urbanism and Infrastructure.
A report with the findings, conclusions and recommendations on infrastructure, costs, performance, job creation, rate reduction, contracts and other related matters must be submitted within 90 days.
Sen. Eduardo Bhatia, the Popular Democratic Party minority leader, urged lawmakers to make the discussion on energy a priority amid the legislative process that will lead to the privatization of Prepa.