PREPA still reeling following Hurricane Maria


The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) is still reeling following Hurricane Maria, accusations of mismanagement, reoccurring blackouts and a management shakeup.

The utility is under investigation for more than $500 million in contracts with untested companies and is battling to restor power to the island, more than two months since Hurricane Maria.  According to authorities, only 54% of the power has been restored.

Last week, PREPA chief executive, Ricardo Ramos, stepped down from his position, and has been replaced by interim head Justo Gonzalez, who was previously director of generation.

Gonzalez faces pressure on multiple fronts, especially in the face of more than $72 billion in debt.

“There are still challenges pre-Maria that need to be addressed as well as challenges right now,” said Jose Roman, interim chair of Puerto Rico’s Energy Commission, which regulates PREPA.

Gonzalez has said he wants a “modern authority,” with standards “on a par with equivalent bodies in the U.S. and worldwide.”

Florida-based utilties, along with utility staff from New York have now been on the island for a month, although there have been rumours that work is stalling due to a lack of materials. According to governor Andrew Cuomo, utility workers and 180 utility trucks have arrived on the island, supplementing the 160 works and 100 trucks already on the island. The ultimate number of utility workers sent by New York will reach 400 once the final 40 arrive on the island next week.

Reuters reports that “The utility has had a stream of executives appointed by the island’s governor, and the latest, Ramos, lasted only about a year. This frequent changing of the guard has disrupted PREPA’s ability to enact long-term change, according to more than a dozen interviews conducted by Reuters.”

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