LUMA Energy, a Canadian and United States joint venture, took over Puerto Rico’s electric grid last year from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. For the past year in Puerto Rico, residents have been angered by the recurring blackouts.
Under LUMA Energy, residents are facing extreme power outages that can last for days. The repercussions of the outages have caused severe school cancellations, water shortages, and business closures. The most recent power outage on August 17, 2022, caused 230,000 businesses and households to be without power. LUMA has since said it was due to overgrown vegetation. But fires at LUMA’s substations have been common.
Residents across the territory are also facing a 7% rate increase in their electric bills after Puerto Rico’s Energy Bureau approved the increase in rate.
In early April, residents of the territory faced poor conditions due to blackouts. With the uptick in electric bills, angry residents protested outside LUMA’s headquarters. Since then protestors have only increased. In the middle of July, protesters marched through Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, demanding that the government cancel its 15-year contract with LUMA Energy that started in 2021.
LUMA has two parent companies—ATCO and Quanta Services—that work in more than 100 countries around the world. This fact came to focus as an employee for Quanta Services began publicly attacking anti-LUMA protestors via a Twitter account. Allegedly, the account, called Tumba el Tumbe or “Knock the Heist,” was being promoted with pay by Boricuas por un Mejor Futuro or “Puerto Ricans for a Better Future.”
The territory-wide electric grid in Puerto Rico has been faulty for a while. Yet, the fragility has become worse with tropical storms and Hurricane Maria. Many worry that the electric grid’s vulnerability will only increase during the upcoming hurricane season.
Since the recent protests, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D), has spoken out against LUMA’s management of the electrical grid for the first time. On August 18, 2022, Pierluisi publicly criticized LUMA saying, “I am not satisfied with the performance of LUMA.”
Now after Hurricane Fiona, the pressure on the company is bound to only increase as citizens demand power be restored across the territory.