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Puerto Rico

As Puerto Rico's power crisis worsens, lawmakers probing outages seek answers

Story by Nicole Acevedo and Gabe Gutierrez

Story   Source

Published on October 14, 2021 12:41 AM
Officials say the crisis ofOfficials say the crisis of In a letter sent to Stensby on Friday, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources requested access to key information, including the number of experienced workers Luma Energy employs to fix damaged power lines, as well as compensation packages and titles of employees who earn more than $200,000 a year, among other data.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rico residents have experienced widespread blackouts, longer service restoration times, poor customer service and voltage fluctuations that often damage appliances and other home electronics since Luma Energy partly took over the island's electric grid in the summer.

Lawmakers in Congress and in the U.S. territory are now seeking specific answers from Luma Energy, which has a contract to do transmission and distribution for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, that may point to why the power crisis is worsening amid electricity price hikes and unreliable service.

In an interview with NBC News, Luma Energy CEO Wayne Stensby said that "by almost any measure, Puerto Rico has the worst performing electricity system in the United States."

"So, we're out there every day, we're making it better step by step," he said. "I think the single biggest challenge is the speed in which we can actually bring real improvements to our customers."

Despite the challenge, Stensby said he's confident that the power supply crisis "will get better month by month and year by year."

But that promise has been put into question after Puerto Rico started experiencing a growing number of rolling blackouts, which worsened between August and September...

As Puerto Rico's power crisis worsens, lawmakers probing outages seek answers

More on this story from NBC.

Puerto Rico residents will see another increase in their electricity bill, even though they already pay twice as much as mainland U.S. customers for unreliable service.

The increase comes the same week in which hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican power customers were subjected to blackouts several days in a row.

The entities in charge of the island's power supply, Luma Energy and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, have blamed the outages on their inability to generate enough electricity to meet consumer demand, the electrical grid's lack of proper maintenance and other unforeseen circumstances, including a "sargassum event" where seaweed clogged the water filters for condensers.

Against this backdrop, over 30 community groups that are part of the Puerto Rican coalition Todos Somos Pueblo gathered in Old San Juan Friday evening to call attention to the ongoing energy crisis, and urge the government to cancel its contract with Luma, a private company working with the power authority, a public corporation.

"It's not normal to have blackouts, it's not normal that our students cannot study properly, it's not normal to have to live with generators, it's not normal to have to throw away groceries because the refrigerator can't work without power," Ricardo Santos, a spokesperson for Todos Somos Pueblo at the protest, told Telemundo Puerto Rico in Spanish. "None of this is normal and it's not normal that our electric bill goes up all the time. That's why we have to go to the streets."

"Cacerolazo" protests, consisting of the banging of pots and pans, echoed in Calle de la Resistencia (Resistance Street) as hundreds of people chanted "Fuera Luma" (Luma Out).

Luma and the power authority originally requested to charge customers 16 percent more for electricity. They argued the increase was necessary to make up for additional expenses attributed to an increased use of less efficient power plants that operate with fuels that are more expensive...