Norwich Public Utilities sends utility crews to Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello announced Monday that the United States territory will begin the privatization process of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), selling assets to companies that will "transform the generation system into a modern, efficient, and less expensive one for the people".

The process of selling PREPA assets will launch this week, as almost 30 percent of the island's energy customers continue living without power.

The NPU crews will be working in Carolina, a city with a population of about 113,000 on the northeast coast of Puerto Rico, under one of seven Incident Management Teams set up by the electric industry. The new plan calls for 30 percent of power generation to be from renewable sources. Offers from companies would then be made and then, in the final phase, the terms of awarding and hiring the selected companies would be negotiated. The island's power generation system is 28 years older than the standard infrastructure used in the rest of the US, he continued, and the antiquated system in place has been poorly serviced.

UTIER, the island's utility workers' union, has alleged that the leaders Rosselló installed at PREPA have deliberately let the power authority fall into disarray to strengthen the argument for selling off its assets. The utility incurred about $9 billion in debt before declaring bankruptcy in July.

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"Whenever NPU has the capacity and the ability to provide mutual aid to another utility and to help thousands of people in need, we will", NPU General Manager John Bilda said in a press release. Most recently, PREPA was blamed for the failure to distribute badly needed parts found in one of its warehouses even as repairs went undone for lack of supplies. The $300 million contract drew intense criticism and in late October, Rossello announced the contract with Whitefish was being terminated. "The Oversight Board welcomes the Governor's announcement, looks forward to reviewing the Government's plans, and intends to incorporate any transformation of PREPA into the revised Fiscal Plan, which it expects to certify on February 23, 2018". Attempts to reach PREPA's corporate offices were unsuccessful.

"This will produce a maximum amount of corruption and a minimal amount of electricity", said Sanzillo, whose organization has provided expert witnesses to PREC proceedings.

"He's got no energy plan, no financial analysis, if he thinks he's going to sell it off and the private sector is going to come in and invest, that is a recipe for Puerto Rico being raked over the coals by private interests", Sanzillo said.