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  • Puerto Rico is on the brink of an electricity supply crisis. Protesters are asking for answers.

Puerto Rico is on the brink of an electricity supply crisis. Protesters are asking for answers.

By on October 1, 2021 0


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Residents of Puerto Rico will see a further increase in their electric bill, even though they already pay twice as much as customers in the mainland United States for unreliable service.

The increase comes in the same week in which hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican electricity customers were subjected to blackouts for days in a row.

The entities in charge of powering the island, Luma Energy and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, blamed the blackouts on their inability to generate enough electricity to meet consumer demand, lack of maintenance power grid and other unforeseen circumstances, including a “Sargassum event“Where algae blocked condenser water filters.

In this context, more than 30 community groups that are part of the Puerto Rican coalition Todos Somos Pueblo gathered in Old San Juan on Friday night to draw attention to the current energy crisis and urge the government to cancel its contract with Luma, a private company working with the electric authority, a state-owned company.

“It is not normal to have power cuts, it is not normal that our students cannot study properly, it is not normal to have to live with generators, it is not normal to having to throw away groceries because the refrigerator cannot work without electricity, “Ricardo Santos, a spokesperson for Todos Somos Pueblo at the protest, said Telemundo Puerto Rico in Spanish. “None of this is normal and it is not normal that our electricity bill is going up all the time. That is why we have to take to the streets.”

The “Cacerolazo” demonstrations, consisting of the slamming of pots and pans, echoed in Calle de la Resistencia (Resistance Street) as hundreds of people chanted “Fuera Luma” (Luma Out).

Luma and the electric authority originally asked to charge customers 16% more for electricity. They argued that the increase was necessary to offset additional expenses attributed to increased use of less efficient power plants that run on more expensive fuels.

But the Puerto Rico Energy Office, an independent government office responsible for regulating the two energy entities, only approved a 3 percent increase Thursday night after determining that they couldn’t “pass on reckless spending indiscriminately to consumers. “The office also said the practice has helped”an inability to lower prices and improve the quality of service. “

“I think the government felt the outrage of the people and limited themselves to a small increase. But we have to remain vigilant,” Santos said.

Residents of Puerto Rico will start paying an additional penny for every kilowatt of electricity they use, meaning a customer who uses around 800 kilowatts will see an increase of about $ 5.60 on their monthly bill.

This increase is preceded by three more so far this year. Between January and September, consumers saw the price of electricity increase by almost 33%.

These increases have greatly contributed to the high cost of living in the United States.

“The cost of electricity is one of the expenses that puts a strain on most citizens and small businesses,” said José Caraballo-Cueto, economics expert and associate professor at the business school of the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, on NBC News.

In June, Luma resumed transmission and distribution operations from the Electric Authority, which battled power outages after Hurricane Maria decimated the island’s dilapidated power grid in 2017, triggering the second longest blackout in the world. Moreover, corruption and mismanagement within the ruling authority contributed to the island’s financial crisis for a decade by accumulating $ 9 billion in public debt, more than that of any other government agency in Porto. Rico.

Officials hoped Luma would spend billions of dollars in government funds to upgrade the dilapidated power grid. But two months after the partial privatization of the grid, Puerto Ricans have experienced longer service restoration times, poor customer service and voltage fluctuations that often damage appliances and other home electronics, according to one. analysis of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a non-profit group that conducts research and analysis on financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment.

We are tired of excuses and technical explanations. Luma company must goSaid Pedro Ortiz, a Catholic priest who is part of Todos Somos Pueblo, in Spanish during a press conference Thusday.

The electrical authority is still responsible for controlling the power generation units on the island.

Todos Somos Pueblo is planning a follow-up protest on October 15 on Expreso Las Américas, Puerto Rico’s busiest highway.

“We need the people of Puerto Rico, who have asked us to be a voice and organize a greater combative presence, to express their outrage,” Ortiz said. “This campaign to sell our country, to privatize it, is not going to stop. It is we, the people of Puerto Rico, who are going to stop it.”

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