In the midst of the transition to a privatizer in the services area and without a proprietary executive director, the Electric Power Authority (PREPA) will come under the scrutiny of the Energy Commission of the House of Representatives, after the record of failures in the energy system over the past weeks.
One month after assuming the position of acting executive director of the public corporation, engineer Efran Paredes Maisonet will respond to the questions of the chamber commission next Thursday, at 2:00 pm, in Hearing Room 1.
This time, the unhooking of vegetative material to avoid the collapse of the lines during storms and the transformation of the electrical system to renewable energy, should occupy a large part of the discussion, which will be led by legislator Víctor Parés Otero, president of the Commission Chamber Energy.
Efforts will also be evaluated to minimize the constant blackouts that occur in different parts of the island, the improvements in the central Costa Sur that was affected by the earthquakes in the southern region, and the control of expenses in the public corporation. To this will be added the repercussions of the shortage of employees in the provision of services and the discussion about the privatization process of the transmission and distribution system through the contract with the company LUMA Energy LLC.
Parés Otero also summoned the director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3, for its acronym in English), Ottmar Chávez, to the hearing on PREPA.
The hearing marks the opening of the administrative work of the Chamber, after President Carlos “Johhny” Méndez decreed a recess due to the cases of legislators who tested positive for Covid-19.
“We have heard the issue of disengagement for practically the last few years. Every time an atmospheric phenomenon occurs, the issue of pruning arises and that had been left as in the background, but it is a situation that deserves first inspection by PREPA and second priority, because every time a phenomenon occurs the factor that most influences the loss of light is vegetation, “said Parés Otero, in an interview with THE SPOKESMAN.
During the recent atmospheric events on the Island – even before the wind and rain began – there were areas where the energy system collapsed. The situation raised accusations, including from Governor Wanda Vázquez, which caused the resignation of the then executive director of PREPA, José Ortiz.
“It is a priority issue, which I want the executive director to explain to us and tell us in public hearings what the authority’s long-term work plan is. I have not seen much aggressiveness on the part of PREPA in addressing this situation (of the pruning of vegetation) ”, added Parés Otero.
High interest in privatization
The chairman of the camera commission said that the acting executive director of the public corporation should explain the stage of PREPA’s transition to a public-private partnership with the company LUMA Energy LLC.
He mentioned that more than two months have passed since the government announced the signing of the agreement between the Authority for Public Private Alliances (P3A) and the privatizing company to operate the transmission and distribution system. The agreement includes a contract that amounts to $ 1,500 million in a term of 15 years.
The company will also be in charge of working directly with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the federal Department of Housing (HUD) to efficiently mobilize the federal aid assigned to the electricity generation systems. Energy.
“I want to know the work plan to improve that structure that is well accelerated and in terms of federal funds, because obviously I want them to tell me where we are so that the country knows where we stand. Also the action plan, because in transition to LUMA there are federal funds that have been publicly announced, but there is nothing formal or official that says how much federal funds they have to rebuild the electricity system, ”he said.
He stated that it would be the first time that Paredes would come under the scrutiny of the House of Representatives. “I don’t know him very well, beyond several meetings that we have had without much exchange. I hope that this agency that has many problems can take over and with the commitment that we can execute the public policy of transforming the system. That is the main thing ”, he affirmed.
The representative opined that there is no way for an executive director to guarantee that the power will not go out in the middle of an atmospheric phenomenon. “To say that he assumes the responsibility that tomorrow — God forbid — a storm comes and the power does not go out, no one can say that, because obviously we have a weak electrical system. That is why the injection of federal funds is so important, “he said.
Executive endorses Parés Maisonet
Yesterday, Governor Wanda Vázquez recommended to PREPA’s Governing Board that it designate Paredes as proprietary executive director. “I am confident that the extensive experience and commitment of engineer Paredes Maisonet will contribute significantly to the success of this important entity for the benefit of the public service and the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.
Paredes Maisonet’s appointment as interim executive director came after the resignation of engineer Ortiz on August 3. At that time, dissatisfaction with their performance during storm Laura was publicly discussed, which left thousands of customers without electricity service, despite light rains and winds.
The president of the PREPA Governing Board, Ralph Kreil Rivera, said that they would consider Vázquez’s suggestion as part of the candidate evaluation process. “Once the Governing Board completes its process of analyzing the options of professionals to occupy the position of executive director in property, and makes a determination, it will be publicly notified,” he said.
If confirmed in office, Paredes Maisonet —who served as PREPA’s director of Planning and Environmental Protection— would hold office until December, if a change of government occurs in the general elections. He was also an energy and environment advisor between April 2009 and December 2012 under the administration of former Governor Luis Fortuño.
At the end of this edition, Paredes Maisonet was not available for the interview requested by this medium.