While a group of legislators seek to give the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority more control over LUMA Energy, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved today, Sunday, an allocation of nearly $600 million for the purchase of materials that are necessary for the reconstruction of the electric grid.
According to the agency in a press release, the federal contribution will allow the advance purchase of materials so that they can be available at the beginning of the reconstruction work.
The federal disaster recovery coordinator, José G. Baquero, explained that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) has already submitted to the agency an initial list of materials and equipment that are currently in short supply, and which tend to take a long time to be delivered.
"This is an extensive requirement that includes the areas of transmission and distribution, substations and telecommunications. The goal is to be able to get the materials in time for the start of the work. We are very excited to see how the work is beginning to take shape," said Baquero.
Among the materials to be purchased with the nearly $600 million are nearly 2,500 miles of transmission lines, 23 miles of submarine cable for the municipalities of Vieques and Culebra, over 300 substations, nearly 200,000 transformers and 13,400 miles of feeders, among other necessary equipment.
For his part, Manuel Laboy Rivera, executive director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3), said that the "reconstruction of the electrical grid has already begun and the purchase of the equipment under this significant obligation will allow for the agile development of other projects".
"Currently, we have disbursed $1.6 billion in emergency categories and $7.1 million for permanent works," Laboy added.
The official said that as the projects progress and as both PREPA and LUMA submit their reimbursement requests, they will be addressed "with haste so that the money disbursed will continue to advance the reconstruction of other infrastructure of the electric system."
The funds announced today join 18 other projects to restore the power grid for a total of more than $700 million.
The power reconstruction also includes nearly $9.6 million for mitigation measures such as replacing poles with ones resistant to winds up to 160 miles per hour, emergency generators to prevent damage to replacement batteries at substations, and elevating substations in flood zones.
According to the statement sent by FEMA, the agency has approved over $12.8 billion for PREPA for emergency and permanent works to address the damages caused by Hurricane Maria and the 2020 earthquakes.
Of this total, $9.4 billion was awarded through FEMA's Accelerated Obligation Acceleration Strategy (FAAST).
Luis Raúl Torres reported on the filing of two measures aimed at designating PREPA as the administrator of the LUMA contract.
According to the legislator, the Public-Private Partnerships Authority (AAPP), which should perform these tasks, "does not have enough personnel with the necessary expertise to perform the administration and oversight," which has led it to incur "in additional million-dollar costs to defray multiple consultant contracts, justifying it as necessary to manage and oversee LUMA Energy.
The measures state that PREPA "has greater expertise to manage the LUMA Energy contract than the PPPA, because this has been demonstrated by PREPA to stabilize the power generation system, providing reliability to it and ending the load relays due to lack of electricity generation on several occasions".