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Puerto Rico Unveils $20B Grid Overhaul

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

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Earlier this month, Puerto Rico revealed plans for a massive overhaul of its power grid, a $20 billion, 10-year endeavor that will bury power lines, up the use of natural gas and establish a system that can withstand winds of 160 mph.

According to the Associated Press, the announcement comes two years after Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez noted concerns over power outages and patchwork repairs that were made in the wake of the storm. Some communities went without power for close to a year.

Hurricane Maria Impact

In late September 2017, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration announced that it would make $40 million available immediately via a “quick release” to help fund rebuilding efforts in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, where many roads and bridges were damaged by Hurricane Maria.

According to the FHWA, emergency work immediately required in Puerto Rico included repairs to bridges, guard rails, traffic signal systems and “a variety of damages related to mudslides and flooding.” The money was allocated via the agency’s Emergency Relief fund.

In December of that same year, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) unveiled a $146 billion plan to rebuild Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, in addition to helping thousands rebuild their homes, there was also focus on the territories’ debt and other facets (split up into seven total) that were impeding the islands before the hurricane season.

Building topics included totally rebuilding the power grid to include more renewable sources of energy, rebuilding the VA hospitals and clinics, rebuilding public schools colleges and childcare facilities, and infrastructure.

In April 2018, a new $4.7 million modular bridge was put in place over the Manati River, making for easier accessibility and a way to reconnect communities.

Power Grid Overhaul

According to Reuters, the overhaul plan, known as the GridMod plan, will be developed with consideration of input from the federal, local and private sectors. The endeavor is to be funded via both public and private investments.

The Weekly Journal reports that the overhaul is being developed with four key factors in mind:

  • Making things more customer-oriented, so that customers will work more with utility companies;
  • Improving affordability for residents, businesses and industries;
  • Bettering energy infrastructure reliability; and
  • Bettering infrastructure resiliency in light of extreme weather events, along with a focus on sustainability.

Out of the $20 billion earmarked for the work, 60% of the funding will go toward transmission and distribution repairs, with federal funding slated to cover $13 billion of the overall cost. The Puerto Rico government also noted that it would choose a company to overtake Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, which is facing $9 billion in debt.

Another part of the plan that the new owner will have to complete is the establishment of eight microgrids that can each function on their own if one is knocked offline.

According to Bloomberg, the plan was revealed after the announcement of a rate hike, which prompted a backlash against the utility.

   

Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Oil and Gas; Program/Project Management; Transmission Towers

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