Puerto Rico’s much-maligned public utility will not be able to fully restore the island’s power before the December date Gov. Ricardo Rossello promised earlier this month, according to a report from The Washington Examiner.
The U.S. territory’s grid won’t be placed back online until February, a full two months later than the governor predicted. Puerto Rico’s public utility has come under intense scrutiny for stumbling its way through rebuilding a hurricane-ravaged grid.
“The governor set some challenging goals … to give importance and priority to the energization of Puerto Rico. They will be reached, but I do not want to give a date,” PREPA acting Director Justo Gonzalez told reporters Friday night.
Slightly more than half of the island’s estimated 3.4 million residents have electricity, according to a government-run website detailing utility coverage.
Rossello, a Democrat who has been under pressure to coral the staggering costs of the rebuild, said in October that he expected 80 percent of the island’s power to be restored by Dec. 1 and 95 percent by Dec. 15.
Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) was forced to cancel a $300 million contract earlier this year with a small energy company from Montana after the island’s governor called the deal a distraction.
Whitefish Energy will be paid to complete ongoing work on two transmission lines in the hurricane-ravaged territory. The company threatened to leave the island earlier this month if Puerto Rico officials didn’t pay its linemen for work already rendered.
Lawmakers and critics in the electric power industry, meanwhile, raised questions about whether Whitefish was well equipped to handle the fix. The company had only two employees before Hurricane Maria battered the island in September. Nearly 80 percent of the island is still without electricity.
The move to eliminate the contract and have Whitefish vacate the island could turn into a bigger nightmare than initially believed. Whitefish Energy now has about 325 people working on restringing transmission lines, clearing debris and erecting fallen poles – all of which could seriously delay restarting Puerto Rico’s energy grid.
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