PREPA prepares privatization push

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Over the past decade, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) – a publicly owned electricity supplier to the U.S. territory – has been plagued by corruption and the ever-present  stench of impending bankruptcy.

Now, in the wake of two devastating hurricanes that have left nearly half the island still without power 3.5 months after the storms have left, Governor Ricardo Rosselló is determined to take another tack – privatizing the island’s electricity supplier in the hopes of bringing stability and consistency to the island’s grid.

That goal moved one step closer to a reality last week as PREPA’s Governing Board approved a five-point plan called the Vision for the Future of Power in Puerto Rico to transform the utility from a scandal-plagued utility into a model for others to follow.

 The five pillars include mandates for PREPA to provide:

  • Excellent customer service;
  • Affordable, reliable power for everyone;
  • Reasonable rate structures;
  • A resilient grid more able to survive disasters like the hurricanes;A more diverse energy structure, including lessening the island’s dependence on fossil fuels; and;
  • An economic growth engine, providing jobs for the island’s citizens, as well as attracting additional industrial and commercial development.

The plan as approved doesn’t provide specifics on how a privatized utility will reach these goals.

“Our goal is not just emergence from bankruptcy and restoration of power, but instead, the establishment of a model for power generation and delivery in Puerto Rico that sets a global example for cost, resilience, sustainability, and customer engagement and empowerment,” said Ernesto Sgroi, chairman of the Governing Board. “PREPA’s privatization is a key step to its recovery in the short-and medium-term and indispensable to its transformation in the long-term.”

Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Smart Electric Power Association, applauded the plan.

“With this new and comprehensive vision for energy market transformation, PREPA will provide a strong but flexible model that other utilities can draw on for inspiration, and adapt to their own local conditions,” Hamm said. “One of the challenges ahead for Puerto Rico will be clearly defining the roles of the utility and third parties, and their longer-term market impacts, while leveraging opportunities for innovative partnerships.”