Returning to the neglected power grid is not an option
LUMA Energy and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), must work as a team to quicky solve the deficiencies that plague the production and supply of energy, an essential service that is both the engine for the island’s economy and at the core of family life.
This urgent task for LUMA and PREPA cannot be postponed. They both must assume their share of responsibility and eliminate the cause of the power outages. Preventing outages and the instability they bring from becoming a normalized part of work, business, or personal life, is of utmost importance. Meeting people’s essential needs and Puerto Rico´s development opportunities depend on it.
Achieving these goals will require the implementation of an organized strategy capable of overcoming the obstacles arising from the long-neglected power grid. The fact that the company operating the system inherited these circumstances along with a bureaucratic structure to handle service complaints should not be ignored.
Constant inefficiencies in PREPA’s energy production, transmission and distribution components have impacted customers due to the uncertainty and cost of the service, with or without hurricanes. These deficiencies are precisely those that not only LUMA, but Puerto Rico itself need to overcome to achieve energy stability, which is the foundation of a country’s sustainability, and the source of growth.
Puerto Rico, strongly and legitimately, demands from LUMA Energy the greatest transparency and accountability as the company responsible for electricity transmission and distribution. Information on the events, frequency, location and causes of outages, as well as repair schedules, must be up to date. Transparency must include personnel and availability to provide excellent services, including vegetation management. Data on the degree of effectiveness must be available.
Now, the solution to Puerto Rico’s energy challenge must be guided by common sense, free of passion, misinformation, or ideological or electoral opportunism. Canceling LUMA Energy’s contract would not solve the energy problem. It would be unfair to once again expose Puerto Ricans to PREPA’s neglect and stagnation, depriving them of the much-needed opportunity to revitalize the system that the public utility has failed to do.
Canceling the agreement with the operator involves not only money but also time since a new contracting process would take long and Puerto Rico´s energy transformation cannot afford to lose that time.
Earl “Duke” Austin, president of Quanta Services, LUMA’s parent company, has publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the service and has said they are working to correct the failures. The reasonable thing to do is to give the company space to implement its Outage Reduction and Response Initiative (IRRI), and to bring their new engineering and other professional staff.
Overcoming deficiencies in communication with customers and the media is an important area. So is evaluating the performance of personnel, particularly the management team. It is also desirable that the parent companies monitor LUMA’s work more closely.
The agenda for energy transformation in Puerto Rico requires a strategy with objectives of excellence. Making them a reality will depend on LUMA’s optimal organizational structure and fulfilling the tasks set for PREPA. It is fair to say that the problems of the power grid date back decades and that not all of them have immediate solutions. The solution does not come from improvisation or populist attitudes.
The chaos stemming from opportunistic, electoral, and ideological motivations that use failures in the energy system to impose technically impossible solutions that call for returning to a structure that was not only inoperative, but that destroyed the power grid should not remain in the equation.
Rash decisions, based on a false reminiscence of a supposedly better past, would jeopardize Puerto Rico´s development opportunities and wellbeing.
The Puerto Rico government must actively oversee that LUMA complies with its contractual obligations. Given customers´ understandable dissatisfaction, the government, the regulatory body, and LUMA must articulate a strategy that gives the island peace of mind.