Puerto Rico blackout exposes the precarious state of the island’s electrical grid

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Puerto Rico blackout exposes the precarious state of the island’s electrical grid

By
Matthew Taylor

13 February 2018

An explosion ripped through the Monacillo power plant outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico Sunday night, causing large-scale blackouts in the capital city. More than 175,000 residents temporarily lost power. The San Juan International airport, the University of Puerto Rico’s San Juan college and Centro Medico, the region’s largest hospital, were all left without power for several hours. There were no reported casualties from the explosion.

While the cause of the explosion is still unknown Angel Figueroa Jaramillo, union leader for the Puerto Rican Electrical Power Authority (PREPA), told reporters that a breaker should have prevented the blackout and that it was too early to determine if mechanical failure was the problem given the decrepit state of the islands power plants.

Sunday’s blackout illustrates the precarious state of the electrical infrastructure in Puerto Rico nearly five months after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island’s power grid, plunging the entire country into darkness and worsening the already impoverished conditions that the majority of Puerto Rico’s citizens live in. To date, 30 percent of the island is still without power, encompassing some 1 million people. Where power has been restored, primarily in the urban areas, it is unreliable and subject to failure.

The power plant explosion occurred in the wake of the announcement by the island’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, that his government would seek to privatize PREPA, the largest public utility company in the United States. In June of last year, the utility had already filed for a form of bankruptcy protection under Title III of the Promesa law, a law passed by Congress…

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