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Major Puerto Rico power plant could be down for a year following earthquake

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Posted at 3:13 PM, Jan 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-09 18:07:01-05

Following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake earlier this week, a government official said that major provider of electricity in Puerto Rico could be down for "over a year."

The operations manager at the Costa Sur Power Plant told CBS News that "Most of the structure (of the power plant) is compromised."

According to CBS News, the Costa Sur Power Plant provides electricity for one fourth of the island.

Angel Perez, the operations manager, said that it would take more than a month to return to normal. But Jose Ortiz, the CEO of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, was less optimistic. He told CBS News that it would take "over a year" for the plant to become operational. Ortiz blamed aging infrastructure at the plant as the reason the plant could be down for an extended period.

"Imagine you have a taxi, 60 years old, and you are required to run that 24/7. That's the kind of business we're running," Ortiz told CBS News.

The governor of Puerto Rico said on Tuesday that getting power restored to 70 percent of the island soon was realistic.

"If another incident does not occur beyond our control and all processes result, we are confident that at least 70% of customers may have energy as soon as possible," said Wanda Vázquez Garced.

Puerto Rico's power system has been unreliable and prone to extended outages in recent years. Following the direct hit from Hurricane Maria, the entire island was without electricity for weeks. Some areas took nine months to have service restored.

Ortiz told CBS News that it's possible to replace 50 percent of the plant's power generation, which could be supplied by FEMA. But currently, an emergency declaration signed by President Donald Trump would not cover the use of the special generator by FEMA.