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Puerto Rico utility providing few privatization documents

By on June 18, 2019

Prepa headquarters in San Juan (File)

Prepa fails to fully comply with requests from Cambio, IEEFA

SAN JUAN — The founder and president of pro-sustainability nonprofit Cambio, Ingrid Vila Biaggi, said Tuesday that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) had not fully complied with the release of public documents related to its privatization and data on the island’s electrical system the utility had promised in court to provide, by last Friday, to the organization as well as the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

“They did not adequately respond to our document request. They only provided 14 documents, many of which are documents previously made public. They have not provided studies underlying the privatization process nor cost-benefit analysis of the generation projects proposed by PREPA. The lack of transparency in all of PREPA’s processes and decisions is very worrisome,” Vila Biaggi said in a statement.

Cambio and IEEFA had brought before the Court of First Instance a mandamus petition in May against Prepa to demand access to certain public information regarding the public corporation’s plan to lease its power transmission and distribution, and sell its generation assets, such as powerplants, after having requested and not received the information for months.

On May 24, an agreement was reached, in Judge Anthony Cuevas’ courtroom, for Prepa to turn over the documents June 7. Although the utility filed a legal motion to walk back on its agreement to deliver the documents, the utility’s lawyers later agreed to deliver some documents first and requested until June 14 to deliver the rest.

Vila Biaggi said that, for example, while Prepa provided an integrated resource plan that it had already made public June 7, there was no specific documentation on the proposed projects.

“They have not presented documents on all the generation projects that they are already undertaking nor a list of operational areas under consideration for privatization. Nor have they provided analysis to justify why certain projects were included in the IRP. This is a process that directly affects the citizenry because we will see it on our bills and in the quality and reliability of electric service,” said the former gubernatorial chief of staff and civil engineer.

IEEFA analyst Cathy Kunkel said Prepa only provided a list of interconnected renewable projects and did not deliver any other document containing data on the electrical system.

“PREPA only provided a list of interconnected renewable energy projects and did not provide any other documents with electrical system data. We are concerned that the privatization process does not appear to be moving Puerto Rico towards solar energy and other renewable energy options in the near future, even though these are the best energy options for the island. We are seeking electrical system data to be able to model alternatives for a renewable energy future,” she said.

Cambio and IEEFA said Prepa presented a list Monday of documents related to the information request that it considers confidential. These include all of the electrical system information, as well as presentations produced by utility consultants. At a hearing scheduled for June 25 before Judge Cuevas, the organizations said the “will insist that PREPA has not complied with the delivery of public documents needed for the island to know whether PREPA’s decisions are in the public interest.”

The release adds that Kunkel believes “the reluctance of PREPA to provide studies supporting the benefits of privatization increases doubts” about its process.

“The external analyses that several organizations have conducted show that privatization, as well as the agreement with bondholders, will have the effect of significantly increasing electric rates,” the analyst said.

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