Disaster Response

Six months after Maria, 93 percent of customers in Puerto Rico have power

Six months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, power has been restored to nearly 93 percent of customers, reports the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

Puerto Rico has 2,400 miles of transmission lines and 30,000 miles of distribution lines with over 300 substations. An estimated 80 percent of the grid was affected by Maria, according to reports from the U.S. Army Corps.

In the long and complex process of restoring the transmission and distribution systems, PREPA has been helped on the ground by a massive unified effort from FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps, the Department of Energy, and many public power and investor-owned electric utilities.

Justo Gonzalez, Acting Executive Director of PREPA, said in a March 16 press release that PREPA has restored service to 1,365,065 customers (92.67 percent) and noted that there are 3,176 field workers still working on energizing homes and businesses without power.

The U.S. Army Corps has a goal of restoring electricity to 90–95 percent of customers by March 31. The Corps estimates that restoration in remote areas with mountainous terrain will take until late May.

“With the unified effort of all sectors of the industry and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Army Corps, and the Department of Energy assisting the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the restoration effort is now past the 90% mark, and life in many areas is starting to return to something like normal. But the remaining areas to be restored are the most difficult in terms of terrain and degree of damage to existing facilities. The last mile (literally and figuratively) will be the hardest,” says American Public Power Association President and CEO Sue Kelly in her latest blog.

Mike Hyland, Senior Vice President, Engineering Services said the Association is deeply grateful to all the public power utilities that have helped in Puerto Rico — Austin Energy and CPS Energy in Texas, Commonwealth Utilities Corporation in the Northern Mariana Islands, New York Power Authority in New York, Richmond Power and Light in Indiana, Salt River Project in Arizona, SMUD in California, and Norwich Public Utilities in Connecticut.

PREPA staff is committed to successfully completing the electrical restoration work with great safety and with a sense of urgency, said Gonzalez. He added that the continuous flow of materials has allowed progress in the reconstruction work during the emergency. So far, 6,647 transformers have been delivered and it is expected that in the coming weeks there will be an additional 54. This adds up to 45,200 poles, which includes a combination of wood, concrete and galvanized steel poles, and 19,000 miles of conductor cable. It is expected that 6,758 poles and 1,450 additional conductor cable miles will arrive in March.

In February, President Trump and his Administration extended the 100 percent federal cost sharing for continued restoration of power in Puerto Rico for an additional 60 days after March 17, 2018 as originally announced last September.

Kelly, back from a trip to Puerto Rico in early March, writes in her blog about the hard work by so many people it has taken to get the power restoration over the 90 percent mark. “We at the Association have been working on this project for months, including many nights and weekends, but there is nothing like going and seeing it for yourself to get a full appreciation for just what an effort it has been,” she said.

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