Puerto Rico’s Latest Blackout Is a Reminder Its Grid Is Still a Mess

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Puerto Rico suffered a major power outage Sunday night that left several municipalities near the San Juan metropolitan area powerless.


Electricity has returned to most of those affected, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which hopes to have power back to all by the end of Monday. Those who remain without power live in Trujillo Alto and Cupey on the island’s northeast end.


The power outage was a result of a switch that exploded at the Monacillo Transmission Center. Puerto Rican officials are still investigating the cause, though they told CNN it was due to a mechanical failure. “We started a damage assessment process to see what went wrong,” Justo González Torres, executive director of the power authority, said in a press release. “We understand that it could have been a mechanical failure within the system.”

This incident serves as a reminder of the many challenges the U.S. territory is facing to return power to the U.S. citizens who remain in Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through it last year. It’s been nearly five months since Hurricane Maria destroyed its electric grid—one that was falling apart long before the hurricane threw it off the edge.

The government should have long ago replaced some of the infrastructure needing work now, The Associated Press reports. The island’s fiscal crisis—which has left PREPA in $9 billion of debt—is to blame. Human rights activists and groups have called for the federal government to relieve Puerto Rico of its $74 billion in debt so that the island can properly rebuild in the onslaught of these natural disasters, especially so that municipalities are prepared come this year’s hurricane season. A disaster aid package President Donald Trump signed last week will, however, provide the territory with a much-needed $16 billion in aid.

Still, at least 375,000 PREPA customers remain without power, with the Caguas region in the east suffering the most. Power is supposed to be back by May—just in time for the next hurricane season.


Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Dense non aqueous phase liquid

Hey, it looks like we don’t have to give a shit about Puerto Rico’s electricity anymore - there’s five restructuring pillars (bullet points copied from PV Magazine) for privatization:

The five pillars include mandates for PREPA to provide

  • Excellent customer service;
  • Affordable, reliable power for everyone;Reasonable rate structures;
  • A resilient grid more able to survive disasters like the hurricanes;
  • A more diverse energy structure, including lessening the island’s dependence on fossil fuels; and;
  • An economic growth engine, providing jobs for the island’s citizens, as well as attracting additional industrial and commercial development.

And from Governor Ricardo Rosselló and Ernesto Sgroi (a hispanics?):

“Our goal is not just emergence from bankruptcy and restoration of power, but instead, the establishment of a model for power generation and delivery in Puerto Rico that sets a global example for cost, resilience, sustainability, and customer engagement and empowerment,” said Ernesto Sgroi, chairman of the Governing Board. “PREPA’s privatization is a key step to its recovery in the short-and medium-term and indispensable to its transformation in the long-term.”

Maybe even privatize environmental justice. The environmental nonprofit sector could use some more non wealthy whites to help folks of color and non wealthy whites that don’t read environmental blogs and are broke. Sorry, this Trump budget released today is fucked up. It’s like (Reagan * GW Bush + Herbert Hoover)^Strom Thurmond bad.