The Governing Board of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) approved yesterday the emergency declaration requested by the public utility’s executive director, Josué Colón, due to the “critical state” of the generation fleet.
“We have to execute and energy security is important for the executive director, for the governor (Pedro Pierluisi), and this public servant. Our responsibility is the generation, we have to do our part and put those plants to work,” said the president of the PREPA´s Board, Fernando Gil Enseñat.
The process, which allows expediting a series of purchases and contracts, is limited to repairs at the plants, for a total of $180 million. However, not all that money will be needed this fiscal year. Colón did not specify the funds that would be needed now.
PREPA has $106 million available for the generation units maintenance. Colón told the press - before participating in a public hearing of the Senate’s Committee on Strategic Projects and Energy - that the rest of the money would have to be processed with the Oversight Board. He said that “a large part” of the work will be done during the next year or year and a half.
On the other hand, Colón added that between the end of this year and the beginning of 2022, both AES Puerto Rico and EcoEléctrica will be out of service for maintenance, not simultaneously, and that will cause an increase in electricity rate.
“The operating cost of those (private) units is the lowest in the network. We have no units in the Puerto Rico network to compare with those generators,” Colón said in response to questions from Senator Javier Aponte Dalmau.
The fuel (bunker C and diesel) that PREPA burns is more expensive than coal and natural gas that AES Puerto Rico and EcoEléctrica use, respectively.
As for the emergency declaration, Colón defended the decision before Aponte Dalmau, who insisted that it would open the door to irregular procurement and contracting processes.
“We are activating some emergency processes that exist in the law and the (Electric Power) Authority’s regulations to expedite the processes of goods and services related to the repairs that we are going to make soon,” Colón said. “It is not that there will be no competition or that we will buy the parts from whomever we want,” he insisted, pointing out that “there are regulations and procedures, there will be no ‘free for all’ or waste.
Angrily, Aponte Dalmau shouted at Colón not to lose his patience and accused him of trying to pull his leg. The PPD senator asked the emergency had to be declared at PREPA when, in January, La Fortaleza gave instructions to ease the purchasing processes there.
“The law establishes that if there is a declaration of emergency, all other processes are eliminated, and that is what the law establishes,” said Aponte Dalmau, visibly upset.
Gil Enseñat intervened and argued that, in March 2018, internal procedures were put into effect at PREPA “so that past incident would not occur.” “The procedure is expeditious, but it requires to submit proposals. It is not arbitrary or capricious,” Gil Enseñat affirmed.