Cheers erupt as Puerto Rico slowly emerges from blackout
Power is slowly coming back to customers of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority after a blackout that affected the entire territory and its 78 municipalities. The power authority is still struggling to return power to all customers because of poorly maintained equipment that is not responding as it should.
Localized power outages are common in Puerto Rico given its outdated energy infrastructure, but widespread failures such as this are extremely rare.
The Electric Power Authority said it is investigating what caused the fire at the Aguirre power plant in the southern town of Salinas. The fire knocked out two transmission lines that serve the broader grid, which tripped circuit breakers that automatically shut down the flow of power as a preventive measure, officials said. Executive director Javier Quintana said a preliminary investigation suggests that an apparent failure on one transmission line that might have been caused by lightning caused the switch to explode.
Garcia denied the blackout was caused by maintenance problems that have plagued the utility for years, largely a result of the island’s economic crisis. He said the switch where the fire happened had been properly maintained.
It was not yet clear how much damage the fire caused. The utility is struggling with a $9 billion debt that it hopes to restructure as it faces numerous corruption allegations. Company officials have said they are seeking revenue to update outdated equipment.
Whatever the cause of the blackout may be, social media is lighting up with posts condemning Lisa Donahue, the utility’s chief restructuring officer, and her contract worth millions. Many expect this incident to light up support for a privatization of the public utility, currently facing more than $9 billion in debt it cannot repay.