SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – After meeting behind closed doors for nearly two hours, Puerto Rico’s power company’s board of directors formally approved a plan to privatize the island’s power generation.
Puerto Ricans are angry and exasperated with the secrecy surrounding the push to privatize the operation and maintenance of generation units. No details were provided, including the company selected and how much it would be paid.
A single dissenting vote came from Tomás Torres, the board member representing the public interest, who told The Associated Press that another multimillion-dollar contract with a private power company would increase people’s electric bills even more amid chronic power outages, and he did not think it was necessary.
According to him, the island’s Electric Power Authority has recently maintained its current generation units, and many of them will go offline by the end of this decade.
“This contract is not necessary,” he said of the push to privatize the operation and maintenance of units that will eventually be replaced by renewable energy sources.
Despite the problems that arose after Puerto Rico’s power company privatized the transmission and distribution of electricity on the island nearly two years ago, critics like Torres oppose the contract. In addition, he noted that the duration of power outages has worsened since then.
“Now we’re risking the same in generation,” he said.
According to law, the power company’s board is not required to reveal details about its meeting, the contract, or the company chosen. The board’s president Fernando Gil said the contract is for 10 years and can be revised after the fifth year.
In a unanimous vote on Sunday, Puerto Rico’s Public-Private Partnership Authority, which represents the public’s interests, approved the contract. The bill now goes to Gov. Pedro Pierluisifor approval.
The power grid in Puerto Rico has long been unstable due to a lack of maintenance and investment, but after Hurricane Maria pounded the island as a Category 4 storm in 2017, it collapsed. There have been only emergency repairs made since the hurricane hit, so reconstruction efforts have just begun.
In September, Hurricane Fiona, a Category 1 storm, barreled through the southwest region of the island, causing an island-wide blackout.