The appointment of experienced engineer José Ortiz as the new executive director of the Electric Power Authority (PREPA) gives hope to a corporation drowned by the uncertainty of a deep financial and governance crisis.
From the outset, the new director has clearly stated that his priority is to raise the credibility of PREPA so that Puerto Rico can recover its investment attractiveness. This mission should receive the endorsement of PREPA´s Governing Board, the workers and all the sectors interested in the island overcoming its great challenges.
Credibility is essential in other critical processes that Ortiz has to lead. On one hand, there is the negotiation of the multi-million dollar debt under PROMESA Title III in Federal Court. On the other hand, it is up to him to direct the transfer of operations and assets to private hands without errors.
To do this, the official must decisively remove the obstacles to the unavoidable transformation, whether they are processes or personnel that keep PREPA stagnant. In that crucial task, partisanship has to keep its hands out. PREPA’s Fiscal Plan - certified by the Oversight Board, which redistributes the composition of the Governing Board to give it independence and strengthen the presence of consumers - has to be complied with.
The challenges of PREPA's critical situation demand space for the new director to carry out his tasks.
Ortiz is an electrical engineer with a Master's degree in Business Administration and Finance who knows PREPA closely because he chaired its Governing Board between 2011 and 2013. With that background, he promised significant changes soon. While he chaired the Governing Board, PREPA invested in the conversion of generating units to natural gas and developed the first large-scale renewable energy projects.
Now Ortiz will manage a federal historical multi-million dollar allocation to rebuild the power grid. He also has experience in these areas. Between 2009 and 2013, he chaired the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which oversaw the investment of $ 7.2 billion in critical infrastructure. This investment received federal recognition. In addition, Ortiz chaired the Infrastructure Financing Authority from 2009 to 2012, when he directed infrastructure development valued at $ 1.5 billion.
Ortiz also led the Aqueducts and Sewers Authority (PRASA) in the positions of executive director and then executive president, under different administrations between 2004 and 2013. There he directed the Capital Improvement Plan, which entailed the investment of $ 2.3 billion for the design and construction of new water treatment plants, improvements to the sanitary system and drinking water. He succeeded in raising PRASA’s credit rating to an investment scale after 14 years of weak finances. And negotiated three consent decrees with the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that put an end to over 20 years of non-compliance.
Ortiz was also a member of the Water Utility Council of the American Water Works Association, an entity that sets legislative and regulatory priorities to ensure effective representation in Washington D.C. for the benefit of consumers. From 2013 to 2018, he served as Vice President of Strategic Development for Wyndham Worldwide.
Given his extensive experience, we hope he will succeed in providing Puerto Rico with a world-class power grid and an innovative energy plan that clearly defines the times of transition towards the production and distribution of clean and renewable sources. Overcoming this long period of crisis, renewed and successfully depends on this new management.
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