LUMA Energy is making progress upgrading Puerto Rico’s electric grid and has requested $8.2 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support hundreds of modernization initiatives.
The utility is advancing a “record number of critical reconstruction projects,” Juan Rodríguez, LUMA Energy’s vice president of capital programs, wrote in a recent column first published March 31 by Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Día. The utility later shared an English language version.
Over the last 21 months the utility submitted 314 projects to the disaster relief agency, all aimed at “restoring and modernizing the most critical elements of the infrastructure and electric grid,” Rodríguez said.
FEMA authorized $9.6 billion to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure in 2020.
LUMA began operating Puerto Rico’s electric grid in 2021, managing the system through a public-private partnership to reduce costs and improve reliability. Hurricane Maria destroyed the island’s electrical system in 2017, and its rebuilt grid has since faced other storms and earthquakes.
The utility launched a $1 billion, FEMA-backed streetlight initiative last year and repaired or replaced more than 28,500 streetlights. A substation modernization initiative began last year with work on the Manatí substation, and work on other critical substations will begin soon, according to the utility.
The substation program includes equipment replacement and “in many cases, redesigning systems to increase day-to-day reliability, and build resiliency against storms and other natural hazards,” Rodríguez said.
And with FEMA support, LUMA is also “adopting new technology and innovative solutions,” he said.
“For example, we are supporting the development of microgrids to provide renewable energy generation to individual communities in big ways and installing grid automation technology to better identify outages and restore power more quickly for our customers,” Rodríguez said.
The utility has also been working to develop educational partnerships to support a robust workforce. On Tuesday, it agreed to partner with local high schools on “educational and training opportunities,” building on agreements LUMA has made with local universities to promote post-graduate career opportunities in the utility sector.