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Puerto Rico utility director wants FEMA to repair grid so it can be privatized

By on August 13, 2019

Prepa Executive Director José Ortiz (CyberNews)

Expects to receive $14 billion requested after Hurricane Maria

SAN JUAN — The executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa), José Ortiz, said Tuesday that he expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to grant the utility the $14 billion requested to repair the electrical system to make the concession of the transmission and distribution system viable.

“Why is this important, because if that number is not certain, then a concessionaire, the private entity, could understand that they would have to make up the difference,” Ortiz said at a press conference.

The official mentioned that the date change by U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain to address the debt’s restructuring could also affect the process to get the companies that will operate the system.

“In the middle of this [between Oct. 3-30] is the month left of proposals that we should receive from the privatizers, which should be being worked on around October. And we are talking about what effects that can have because it is important that we have agreed on the matter with the creditors,” Prepa’s chief said.

“These are two issues that are very critical for the granting of the concession and ending the matter of the bondholders,” he added.

Ortiz said that among the projects are the burying of Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and Río Piedras Medical Center power lines, as well as a line in the pharmaceutical corridor on PR-30. He added that the priorities include urban centers, hospitals, supermarkets, banks and water and sewage systems in all municipalities. All this, at a cost of $6 billion, he said.

“Eight billion, distribution is $8 billion. Distribution alone. All $14 billion includes transmission and distribution,” Ortiz said.

Regarding the power generation side, he said Prepa has about $3 billion to build new plants, such as Palo Seco, and demolish what exists.

Asked about what would happen if FEMA does not grant that amount, Ortiz replied that the entity or private entities contracted would have to assume those repairs.

“The rest become secondary projects, for which the concessionaire will eventually be asked to make part of the investment later,” he said.

Ortiz made his remarks after a second meeting with Gov. Wanda Vázquez.

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