Orlando, Florida. – The Resident Commissioner in Washington, Jennifer Gonzalezgave this Friday a further boost to the wave of criticism against LUMA Energy, by urging the government of Pedro Pierluisi to promote the cancellation of the contract of the company, which is in charge of the transmission and distribution system of the electrical system.
Commissioner González said that the Secretary of Justice, Domingo Emanuellithe Energy Bureau and the Public-Private Partnerships Authority must initiate the analysis to achieve the cancellation of the contract and he trusted that the Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF) does not want to tie the government of Puerto Rico with an agreement that “does not serve it people or infrastructure.
He also reported that his advisors are examining the alternatives to promote the cancellation of the contract granted by the Executive of the Island and that he will also be in contact with members of Congress, where the Natural Resources Committee has had on its agenda to call a public hearing on the operation of the electrical network and plans for its reconstruction.
González indicated that the blackouts and problems in the energy supply "have become our daily bread in Puerto Rico" and that more than a year after assuming the management of the transmission and distribution system, the situation has worsened.
“(Luma) has not been effective in keeping citizens with a good electricity system… No government or customer should be forced to provide poor service. And if the contract that was made was to improve, it cannot be to get worse. We are still in hurricane season... and we cannot pretend that we have a company that does not even know how to handle a breakdown, "said González, in a broadcast on Facebook.
Commissioner González specified that the time to act is now, as some think that the expiration on November 30 of the interim contract with LUMA could give more grounds for its cancellation. However, the motivations behind this interim contract are tied to PREPA's restructuring process, which has not concluded.
According to the agreement, LUMA has the prerogative to withdraw from operating the electricity network if the debt restructuring process has not been completed. If LUMA decides to continue with the contract, which it has previously said it will do, the 15-year agreement with the Puerto Rican government will come into force in December.
In response to González's expressions, the Secretary of Justice sent a written communication in which he opened the door to making the agency's resources available to the Public-Private Partnerships Authority to carry out an analysis of the contract.
“If the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority, an agency with the expertise and supervision of the LUMA Energy contract, needs and requests that the Department of Justice collaborate in an analysis of said agreement, we are available to provide collaboration,” Emmanuelli stated.
Last night, the Puerto Rican Democratic congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (New York) stated that LUMA has been “given too many opportunities to do the right thing”. “The people of Puerto Rico are suffering, and the Board has to stop defending this failed privatization. LUMA Energy is enough,” Velázquez said on Twitter.
And the Puerto Rican Democrat Ritchie Torres (New York) also advocated the cancellation of the contract with LUMA. "LUMA has failed the people of Puerto Rico," he said.
The chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, the Democrat Raul Grijalvaalso reacted to the situation with LUMA and indicated that the "government of Puerto Rico must hold LUMA accountable to ensure that the residents of Puerto Rico receive the energy service they deserve."
“The people of Puerto Rico should not face prolonged blackouts and uncertainty that places them in potentially dangerous scenarios. The situation with the unreliable electrical system in Puerto Rico is unacceptable,” said Grijalva, who added that a hearing will be held in September to evaluate the implementation of the Promise Law, in which they will also evaluate the contract with LUMA promoted by the Board. of Fiscal Supervision.
This week, for the first time, Governor Pedro Pierluisi expressed his dissatisfaction with the company's performance, amid new blackouts and fires at electricity substations. Pierluisi appointed Francisco Berríos Portela as Assistant Secretary of the Government for Energy Affairs.
Commissioner González maintained that she has pressured LUMA “since day one,” but praised the fact that Governor Pierluisi is also now expressing dissatisfaction with the company's work.
He also saw as a positive step the appointment of a deputy secretary of the Interior, in La Fortaleza, to address the energy issue.
González said that although he is on his honeymoon, after getting married on August 6, he has been aware of what is happening on the Island. In his opinion, the continuous interruptions in the electricity service make Puerto Rico seem like “a country Third World”.
For González, the time it takes to make repairs, problems with trimming trees that can interfere with power lines, and lack of staff are examples of LUMA's poor performance.
González's expressions coincided with the beginning of the Convention of the New Progressive Party (PNP), from which he is absent, due to his honeymoon, and at a time when it is perceived that he is considering challenging Governor Pierluisi for the candidacy for the governorate. González had warned the PNP that he would not attend the event, according to sources.
Although there are many who denounce LUMA's performance and the lack of government oversight, González's criticism of the electricity service has increased, since 2021, rumors that he plans to run for governor.
Facing criticism, LUMA Energy President Wayne Stensby said Thursday that there is a pattern whereby the Electric Power Authority "and others fail to acknowledge the past and take the opportunity to blame LUMA in the press." ”.
“Deficiencies are not repaired in a year. It is a system, an interconnected system. It is not an excuse, it is the simple truth...If I have a request for Prepa and others, it is that it is time to work together. Let's be honest about the limitations we face, and we will continue to work to address them," Stensby added.
Governor Pierluisi expressed on Thursday that "it is obvious that (LUMA) has to make changes in its execution plan to significantly improve the service it is offering to our people."
For its part, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau warned on Thursday that outage metrics reflect that service has not improved since LUMA Energy assumed, in June 2021, the operation of the country's energy transmission and distribution system.
“The most outstanding conclusions about the reliability of the electrical system point to the fact that there has been no improvement in terms of the duration of service interruptions. In terms of generation, PREPA's total cost to produce energy continues to exceed historical metrics”, highlighted the Bureau, which is in charge of supervising the energy system on the island.