SAN JUAN ( Associated Press) – A highly criticized private company that handles power transmission and distribution in Puerto Rico won a last-minute extension to its contract on Wednesday despite widespread objections.
Luma Energy won the extension after a vote of four in favor and one against from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. A member representing the public interest cast the sole vote against it.
The approval of the temporary contract comes amid worsening blackouts that prompted the US government this month to step in and begin securing barges and land-based generators to ease power outages. Crews have begun rebuilding the power grid that was battered by Hurricane Maria in September 2017, and so far only emergency repairs have been made.
Luma, a consortium made up of Calgary, Canada-based Atco and Quanta Services Inc. of Houston, was initially awarded the contract in June 2021 to repair dilapidated infrastructure resulting from decades of neglect and mismanagement by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority Took possession of.
But blackout periods have worsened under Luma, and the utility has faced intense scrutiny and calls from customers to cancel its contracts, raising seven electricity rates in a year while they often out of the light. Several substations have caught fire in recent months, and Luma has at times weathered inclement weather, sargassum – a type of seaweed – and even an iguana, as well as an aging and vulnerable infrastructure to Hurricane Fiona. , which is a Category 1 storm. An estimated $4 billion in damage occurred in Puerto Rico’s southwestern region and electrical grid in September.
In August, Governor Pedro Pierluisi publicly criticized Luma for the first time, saying he was not satisfied with her performance. But he has since said that Luma is already working on projects to rebuild the network and that finding a separate company would further delay the work.
“There is no point in canceling a contract at this time,” Pierluisi said during a press conference on Wednesday, adding that “all we want is for both Luma and the Electric Power Authority to improve their performance for a more stable electric service.”
Luma celebrated its contract extension, saying that “Despite many legacy challenges, Luma has made significant progress over the past 18 months in addressing critical infrastructure challenges as well as improving system reliability and resiliency. ”