The Fiscal Plan to be certified by the Board for the revitalization of the energy system in Puerto Rico should be directed towards models that leave behind that bureaucratic, costly and lacking in leadership system that rules the Electric Power Authority.
Awareness that the public corporation is hampering economic progress in Puerto Rico forces the Island to get rid of this chaotic agency, as we know it today, to make way for an energy sector that does not bleed the pocket of its customers.
The structural collapse of the Authority was shown at the hearings held by the Board on Thursday, which involved almost a score of experts on energy issues. The entity also sought the input of workers, political opposition and the management of PREPA in preparation the certification of the state company´s fiscal plan this month.
Consensus is transparent and clear: there is an urgent need to obtain financing to update electricity operation, equip it with new technologies that temper its processes to this historical moment after the hurricane, establish regional distribution systems and micro-grids, and direct the Island towards sources of renewable energy. No more bureaucracy and politicization.
Recommendations are based on the scenario of structural inefficiencies and lack of leadership. The effort should not be concentrated on trying to save PREPA, but on guaranteeing a power grid that is reliable, durable and resistant to all crises, including atmospheric ones. The agenda to build sustained competitiveness in Puerto Rico requires the direct participation of the private sector as a pillar for job creation.
For the fiscal plan of the electricity system to be undertaken and result in fiscal discipline, certain conditions must be met. An essential step is to create an infallible legal framework to proceed with the privatization process announced by Governor Ricardo Rosselló, which may begin with the customer service area.
It is also necessary to establish clear and transparent processes, so that there is a rational order that facilitates the big changes needed. It is equally important to make a clear distribution of functions and responsibilities of all the entities that participate in the energy route. Among them are the management of the public company, the state government and the Board.
The process has to be subject to an Energy Commission that is independent of the government and strengthened in order to regulate the industry correctly. The Executive's proposal to merge the Commission with other entities that respond to the governor is unacceptable because it undermines the auditing function of the ruling entity.
The Legislative Assembly has the golden opportunity to establish the basis to reconceptualize the energy system all over again, from the perspective of the future Puerto Rico.
Even with an approved plan and paving the way for its implementation, the lack of sources of financing for the future energy system is a critical problem. Efforts should be directed toward seeking financial support from the federal government and evaluating private investment proposals, which the Board has begun. The $ 1.3 billion loan from the General Fund would serve as a bridge to this other capital.
The Authority exhausted its possibilities as a project to promote economic development. Therefore, the route of energy transformation must be based on the recommendations of the best minds in a transparent public process. The Board has opened spaces. This is a precious opportunity to leave a legacy of a reliable and durable energy system that promotes progress. But to achieve this, Puerto Rico must live behind what has never worked.