Lawmakers question Luma Energy’s ability to improve Puerto Rico’s fragile power grid


“They should disclose which sectors in each municipality have not had [power] for 17 days,” Hernández said on Twitter, adding that if it’s true that 95% of Puerto Rico has power, then towns like his “should see MOST of the brigades working on the [remaining] 5%. I HAVE NOT SEEN THEM!”

There had also been protests Monday, when residents of San Germán joined a demonstration outside one of Luma Energy’s municipal offices to demand that the company restore service to the town, where roughly 65% of power customers still don’t have electricity, Mayor Virgilio Olivera said.

The mayors of Hormigueros, Sabana Grande and Guánica, all of which remain mostly in the dark, as well, also joined the demonstration Monday.

Stensby and Luma Energy officials declined to provide data broken down by municipality at Wednesday’s legislative hearing. Legislators gave the company three days to provide them with such information.

Luma Energy breaks down data only by regions, which aggregate multiple municipalities, leaving an unclear picture of which towns or neighborhoods remain in the dark. Daniel Hernández of Luma Energy also said the technology the company uses sometimes “does not detect ‘pockets,’” referring to electrical connections outside of the main lines.

During the legislative hearing, Puerto Rican lawmakers identified deficiencies in how Luma Energy coordinates and communicates with agencies to restart water pumps considered to be of “high priority” and keep power lines cleared of overgrown vegetation.

Residents in areas where power has been restored have also reported having unreliable power access.

“On any given day if a customer loses power we respond as quickly and safely as possible to restore power,” a Luma Energy spokesperson told NBC News in a statement, adding that any unreliability in service could be attributed to the significant damage Fiona caused to the electric grid.

“It inflicted damage to 30% percent of transmission lines, 50% of distribution feeders, submerged 7 substations and impacted generation facilities,” the statement said. Luma Energy officials estimate the grid suffered over $1 billion in damage.

Luma Energy declined to say how often it responds to power outages in areas where electricity had been restored after the blackout.

It isn’t the first time Luma Energy has been under fire. When the company started operating on the island over a year ago, customers endured rolling blackouts and outages that weren’t attributed to natural disasters.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Stensby last week “demanding answers for the company’s ongoing challenges with providing reliable power to the island’s residents.”

“Ongoing outages and the complete disruption of power following Hurricane Fiona amplify concerns that LUMA has failed to adequately develop and maintain crucial electrical infrastructure in Puerto Rico despite its lucrative 15-year contract,” the letter said.

The Luma Energy spokesperson said the company plans to respond to the letter and the committee’s additional request for information by Tuesday, the deadline established by leaders of the committee.

Cayey Mayor Rolando Ortiz convened a protest outside Luma Energy’s municipal offices in his town for Friday.

“Let’s protest. If you don’t have electricity, I invite you to join us. If you have services, join us,” Ortiz said on Facebook. “There are many elderly and sick people who suffer.”

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