The electric utility industry is super-charging power restoration in Puerto Rico by deploying seven teams of storm response experts to support efforts already under way across the hurricane-ravaged island.
Starting Dec. 11, a first group of teams representing municipal utilities and investor-owned utilities will coordinate efforts with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in seven island regions. Electric cooperatives plan to join a second relief wave sometime next year.
NRECA, the American Public Power Association and the Edison Electric Institute signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). The MOU paves the way for mainland electric companies to enter into emergency agreements to provide resources and workers to the island utility.
Electric co-op crews serve some of the nation’s most rugged, mountainous and remote areas and have a “unique understanding of the challenges involved in maintaining and restoring power,” said NRECA CEO Jim Matheson.
“We look forward to bringing those skills to bear as part of this unified restoration effort,” said Matheson. “Electric cooperatives are proud to support these additional resources to expedite restoration efforts in Puerto Rico.”
The initial incident management teams will consist of seven to 10 operations experts from mainland utilities. Right now, some 3,000 contractors are already on the ground in Puerto Rico, assessing damage and putting in place a formal structure to support logistics, equipment needs and supply chain issues. Carlos D. Torres, retired vice president of emergency management at Con Edison, is leading that effort.
Nearly one-third of Puerto Rico’s estimated 3.4 million residents still lack power since Hurricane Maria struck in mid-September, according to government estimates. Many residents no longer have running water because pumping stations are powered by electricity.
Restoration efforts have suffered several setbacks, including one last month when a main power line serving the northern half of Puerto Rico failed. Seven cities that had regained services lost power.
“We all know that this restoration mission is complex and difficult, and we will continue to work together with PREPA and our federal partners to overcome these challenges,” said Sue Kelly, APPA president and CEO.
Victoria Rocha is a staff writer at NRECA.