Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierlusi (NPP, R) announced on Friday, March 17, that the United States government shipped three mega generators to the territory. This is part of an effort to stabilize the electric grid amid continuing power outages and vulnerability to damage. Governor Pierlusi said that the generators will add 150 megawatts of power and that additional generators expected to ship soon will add another 250 megawatts.
According to an AP News report, officials said that crews will install the generators before June 1, when the Atlantic Hurricane season begins. FEMA is covering 90% of the generators’ cost while Puerto Rico’s government picks up the remaining 10% as part of a deal struck last year in November. In the fall, the US government launched the deal during a similar effort in which generators were delivered to the territory after Puerto Rico’s grid had been destroyed by Hurricane Fiona—and already largely compromised by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Now, the new assistance with mega generators takes the strain off of recent efforts to make permanent repairs to the grid. Even between hurricane seasons and major shocks to the electric grid, Puerto Rico faces everyday challenges due to power outages which affects the lives of students, medical patients, and the elderly. On average, the permanent generation units are over 45 years old, which is twice that of the US mainland. As for funding, the US government has allocated around $12 billion dollars directed mostly toward Puerto Rico’s grid construction, but only $88 million has been utilized as of early March.
AP News references the Center for a New Economy, stating that, at this rate, it would take over 100 years to fully reconstruct Puerto Rico’s power grid. Some elements of the territory’s power grid will be offline for 12-18 months as the repairs continue, making the temporary power from the generators crucial for residents. Meanwhile, the territory is three years into privatizing its power grid with LUMA energy as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) works to restructure over $9 billion dollars in debt. Nancy Casper, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) coordinator, said that the supplying of the generators is “the first step in a very, very complex process.” “The temporary generation is critical,” Casper said.