Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) —Spanish: Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (AEE)— is an electric power company and the government-owned corporation of Puerto Rico responsible for electricity generation, power distribution, and power transmission on the island. PREPA is the only entity authorized to conduct such business in Puerto Rico, making it a government monopoly. The authority is ruled by a board of directors appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Since 2014, PREPA is subject to the Puerto Rico Energy Commission, another government agency whose board of directors is also appointed by the governor.
|Formed||May 2, 1941|
|Headquarters||San Juan, Puerto Rico|
PREPA was originally named the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority (PRWRA) —Spanish: Autoridad de las Fuentes Fluviales (AFF)— which was created by Law No. 83 of May 2, 1941 during the governorship of Rexford G. Tugwell. Government-owned, PRWRA unified diverse regional and local electric power companies into one unified electric grid.
Throughout its history, PREPA has suffered several outages that have left the entire island of Puerto Rico without power.
One of these islandwide outages occurred on September 20, 2016 when one of PREPA's plants—Central Aguirre—exploded. The explosion, caused by a lack of maintenance, left all of Puerto Rico without power for three days.
Hurricanes Irma and MariaEdit
When the eye of Hurricane Irma passed north of the island, the strong winds left 1 million residents without power. Power had been restored to 980,000 people by September 20, when Hurricane Maria struck, leaving nearly the entire island without power. Two weeks later, power had been restored to about 10% of customers.Full restoration was expected to take months, and many Puerto Ricans bought generators. Electric companies in unaffected areas ordinarily make contracts for speedy assistance to those hit by disaster, but in this case negotiations took weeks.[why?] The initial $300 million contract for power restoration was given to Whitefish Energy, a Montana company which had only two employees on the day the hurricane struck. By December 2017, the Army Corps of Engineers had other contractors in place, along with with crews brought in through mutual aid agreements with utilities such as Con Edison.
Board of directorsEdit
The board of directors is the governing body of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Its membership usually consists of private citizens who are supposed to represent the public interest and may or may not include exofficio political officeholders (typically the Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce). This inconsistency happens as the board's structure changes whenever a political party gains power, usually every four or eight years. When both the governor and the legislature of Puerto Rico belong to the same party, one of the earliest laws amended by the legislature is the one governing PREPA in order to change its board's composition. Once a new board is settled in, one of its first resolutions is to appoint a new executive director. These frequent changes effectively make the authority a partisan tool rather than a mere electric utility and, consequently, change the vision, strategy, and plans of the authority every four or eight years according to the political party in power.
Of the different members of the board, the governor is usually required to appoint four members with the advice and consent of the Senate. It is through these members, along with the incumbent political officeholders which serve as ex officio, thus the governor and the political party in power effectively control the authority. Three additional members of the board are directly elected by consumers by plurality-at-large; two of them by residential consumers and one by commercial ones.
This section needs to be updated.(October 2017)
The last structural change to the board occurred on June 25, 2013 after governor Alejandro García Padilla enacted Act 29 of 2013 together with the 17th Legislative Assembly. The act effectively replaced the incumbent board with an entirely new board, as follows:
|Role||Representation||Name||Appointed by García Padilla||Remarks|
|Chairman||Public interest||Harry Rodríguez García||Yes||Chemical engineer, Vice President and General Manager of Abbott Laboratories Puerto Rico|
|Vice Chairman||Elected by consumers||Agustín Irizarry Rivera||No||Professor of electrical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico|
|Secretary||Exofficio||Miguel Torres Díaz||Yes||Secretary of Transportation and Public Works|
|At-large||Exofficio||Alberto Bacó Bagué||Yes||Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce|
|At-large||Public interest||Andrés Salas Soler||Yes||former judge and attorney-at-law|
|At-large||Public interest||Javier Quintana Méndez||Yes||Dean of the school of engineering of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico|
|At-large||Elected by consumers||Juan Rosario||No||environmental activist|
|At-large||Elected by consumers||vacant||No|
The public corporation also provides fiber optic broadband to private carriers through one of its subsidiary, PREPA Networks. PREPA is also studying the possibility of selling energy to the United States Virgin Islands with the installation of an underwater power cable between Fajardo and the island of St. Thomas—similar to the power cable with which it services its clients in Vieques and Culebra, which are also islands.
As of 2014 the authority carries liabilities of $10.1 billion USD against assets of $6 billion. It also operates with a deficit of about $354 million against revenues of $4.8 billion. In terms of costs, $2.6 billion or about 58% of PREPA's expenses are attributed to fuel purchases alone while salaries and collective bargains represent less than 13% of the authority's expenses.
On May 23, 2014, Citigroup severely curtailed PREPA's line of credit for fuel purchase, forcing PREPA to run out of cash to pay Petrobras, its main oil supplier. Petrobras, in turn, threatened to cut off further shipments to the authority. This forced the authority to take $100 million out of its Capital Improvements Fund in order to pay its debt to Petrobras. PREPA argues that the different agencies of the government of Puerto Rico owe them more than $290 million in debt, while an additional $375 million of revenue is lost through subsidies enacted by the Puerto Rican legislature. An additional $600 million is owed to the authority by residential and commercial consumers, some of them by consumers living in public housing. The authority argues that it wouldn't have a problem being self-sufficient if it were paid the aforementioned debt and if it weren't forced to give out subsidies. On June 3, 2014, senator Ramón Luis Nieves admitted publicly that, "part of the financial problem at PREPA was provoked by the government and the Puerto Rican legislature."
On June 11, 2014, Fitch Ratings downgraded its rating on the authority's to speculative non-investment grade ("junk status") from BB+ to BB while putting the authority on negative rating watch. PREPA filed for bankruptcy in July 2017.
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