Efran Paredes, interim executive director of the Electric Power Authority. (David Villafane/Staff)

Efran Paredes, interim executive director of the Electric Power Authority (PREPA), anticipated that, once the privatization projects underway are completed, the public utility would assume an important role in overseeing the companies in charge of PREPA operations.

“I see the Authority as a government entity that will ensure compliance with the laws and certain environmental regulations, in line with the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau and the P3 (Public-Private Partnerships Authority),” Paredes said in an interview with El Nuevo Día.

"Besides the Authority will continue to be the owner of the generation, transmission, and distribution assets," he added.

On 22 June, the government announced the selection of the LUMA Energy to operate the power grid. This is a $ 1.5 billion contract for at least 15 years.

A month earlier, on May 22, the dock that New Fortress Energy built at a cost of $100 million to receive and supply natural gas to the San Juan power plant was officially opened.

And this week, P3 and PREPA published a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for companies and consortiums interested in operating, maintaining, and dismantling the generation assets (plants and peaking units).

Paredes defended all three initiatives defining them as part of the government’s plan to transform the grid.

On the transition with LUMA Energy, which could take 10 to 12 months, he said that "the exchange of information" between the company and PREPA directors continues.

“We are having meetings about different areas and topics. We will be creating plans and gradually putting them into operation without interrupting services. We can’t lose sight of the fact that there is a power grid to manage and it has to keep working,” said Paredes, who could not estimate how many of the current employees will eventually be left in PREPA.

LUMA Energy intends to recruit as many of the current employees as possible, as long as they are qualified for the work required. The company will recruit through a competitive process.

Regarding the RFQ for generation assets, Paredes said that "what we are looking for" is to meet the legal obligation of reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

“For that type of initiative, plants have to be shut down and decommissioned or replaced by efficient plants to handle some kind of event in particular. We are looking for candidates that can manage generation assets, operate them and be efficient and, at the end of their useful life, dismantle them and leave the site as it has to be,” he said.

According to Paredes, there is no preference for one or more companies or consortiums to operate generation assets. And he also has no "particular preference" on how to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

"The law and the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) state that we have to reach that goal, but there are no specifications about with what resources. It could be rooftop solar panels (distributed) or utility-scale. I'm open to either. We are here to comply with the law and to find the most efficient method to power the island. I understand that both approaches are good and necessary," he said.

According to organizations like Casa Pueblo and Queremos Sol, among others, the island does not need more solar farms, but installing photovoltaic panels on roofs can help to reach the goal by 2050.