Puerto Rico has announced that it plans to privatize electricity generation, a first for a U.S. territory facing chronic power outages as it struggles to rebuild a crumbling electric grid.
The move marks the beginning of the end for Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority, a behemoth long accused of corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency that holds some $9 billion in public debt, the largest of any government agency.
Many Puerto Ricans already irate and fatigued by power outages were wary of the announcement, given that serious complaints about the length of outages, costly power bills and other issues arose after the island's government privatized the transmission and distribution of power in June 2021.
Fermín Fontanes, executive director of Puerto Rico's Public-Private Partnerships Authority, said the board of directors unanimously approved the privatization of generation, including the members who represent the public's interest.
It was not immediately known which company they selected to take over power generation. A spokeswoman with the authority said the contract was not yet public, in accordance with local laws.
Fontanés said the contract would be sent to the governing board of Puerto Rico's power company and then to the territory's governor for his signature. The contract is expected to be approved despite opposition to the privatization.
Carmen Maldonado, vice president of the main opposition Popular Democratic Party, said she and others would fight the plan. Jose Luis Dalmau, a party member and president of Puerto Rico's Senate, said lawmakers would scrutinize the process and demand that workers at the state power company be protected and that the grid is stabilized and number of outages reduced, among other things.
He noted that Puerto Ricans are dismayed with the current situation and demand a more reliable and economic electrical system: "The necessary transformation of our ... system is a priority."