Puerto Rico’s government website on the status of Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria reports, as of this writing, that nearly 70% of Puerto Rico has electricity. Like the claim that more than 96% have safe water, this is not exactly true.
That 70% figure, according to Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority interim Executive Director Justo González, just means that the power grid is generating at 70% of capacity.
The actual number of PREPA customers who have electricity is 55% — just over half. More specifically, this is “55% of customers who are able to receive electric power.” This excludes those whose homes and businesses have been damaged too much to receive power.
This 55% statistic also does not indicate how reliable the electricity is for the PREPA customers who are considered to have access; there have been reports of inconsistent availability.
A press release from Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello says that the governor has requested more workers from the States to augment the 3,500 workers currently trying to get electricity restored to people across the island.
Early discussions proposed a new electrical system relying on alternative energy sources and installations better suited to weather hurricanes, but now, roughly100 days after Hurricane Maria made landfall, workers are just trying to restore power. PREPA reports that new “unexpected” destruction is being found each day as workers attempt to rebuild the 342 substations, 2400 miles of transmission lines, and 30,000 miles of distribution lines.
14,000 electric poles have been received on the Island, and 7,000 more are expected. Experts suggest that buried lines would be a better approach, but 100 days after the hurricane, residents are desperate for electricity and less concerned about the specifics of the rebuild.
“[W]e will not stop working until every person and business has their lights back on,” Gonzalez promised.
Puerto Rico’s electricity was unreliable before the hurricane, and the cost to PREPA’s customers was very high — commercial rates were more than double the average in the States, and prices overall were higher than in any State except Hawaii. One of the main reasons for the price difference was the need to import petroleum to fuel electric power across the Island. Puerto Rico is ideally suited to the use of solar power, wind power, and wave energy. A stronger electrical grid, more reliable power, and lower energy costs would make Puerto Rico more appealing for business investment in the future.