There must be changes to Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure

From the management of public utility PREPA failing to maintain transmission lines crisscrossing the island to the awarding of a crucial post-disaster contract to a tiny, unproven Montana company, the stage was set for Puerto Ricans to suffer.

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Editorials

September 22, 2022 - 5:12 PM

A flooded road is seen during the passage of hurricane Fiona in Villa Blanca, Puerto Rico, on Sunday. Fiona left a general blackout and rivers overflowing. (Jose Rodriguez/AFP/TNS)

As Puerto Rico works very slowly to restore power to the roughly 80% of the island that remains in the dark after getting smacked from Hurricane Fiona, it’s worth remembering that the “act of God” language often found in insurance and legal documents doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes, humankind is generally powerless to stop a storm from actually forming, but the extent of damage it does is a direct result of policy decisions and preparation.

By that token, both the Puerto Rican and federal governments have failed the people of the island. Both before and after the ravages of Hurricane Maria five years ago, bad decisions have hamstrung the development of the more resilient energy grid that should’ve been non-negotiable in the 2017 storm’s wake.

From the management of public utility PREPA failing to maintain transmission lines crisscrossing the island to the awarding of a crucial post-disaster contract to a tiny, unproven Montana company, the stage was set for Puerto Ricans to suffer. Fiona must stand as the final warning that the current ways that the power is generated and delivered are not built to withstand the reality of contemporary superstorms, which means in part that leadership must get serious about accelerating the transition toward renewable energies.

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