Puerto Rico power grid 'devastated' by Maria, PREPA CEO says
- Puerto Rico could be without power for four to six months after a double hit from Category 4 hurricanes in recent weeks, territory officials said this weekend.
- The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said it would begin restoration efforts on Monday, having waited to avoid safety hazards to employees. Significant flooding and debris have limited the ability to conduct damage assessments, federal officials said Friday.
- In Florida, power has been restored to more than 99% of customers following the impacts of Hurricane Irma, which hit the state the previous week. Grid rebuilding efforts continue in Houston, where Hurricane Harvey knocked out power to more than 300,000 in late August.
Puerto Rico could be without grid power for up to six months after Hurricane Maria destroyed significant parts of PREPA's fragile grid, officials said this weekend.
Last week, Maria made landfall with winds of 155 mph, knocking out power to nearly all of the 3.5 million residents of the U.S. territory. The storm came after a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma weeks earlier, which put more than a million people in the dark on the island.
The damage to PREPA's grid is historic, according to news reports on the ground. Every part of the system was affected, Bloomberg reports, with transmission towers toppled and damage to hydroelectric dams increasing the potential for rupture and threatening thousands of nearby residents.
"PREPA is not serving any power, across the island," PREPA CEO Ricardo Ramos told CNBC on Friday. "Any power that people may see is just private emergency power plants ... PREPA is out of service; it has been devastated by Hurricane Maria."
PREPA estimates it has lost 80% of its transmission and distribution infrastructure, Ramos said. The utility is working to assess damage to power plants, after which it will work to restart them and connect to repaired transmission lines.
PREPA's grid was ill-prepared for such a disaster, with repairs and modernization deferred for years due to financial trouble. A persisting reliance on aging oil-fired generation means Puerto Ricans have long paid some of the highest power prices in the U.S., and a 2016 report from the territorial government concluded $4 billion was needed to upgrade its infrastructure.
The utility is about $9 billion in debt and filed for bankruptcy in July.
On the mainland, power restoration is nearly complete after Hurricane Irma hit Florida earlier in the month. The state Public Service Commission reported on Monday that just over 4,000 accounts remain without power.
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