LUMA line workers install new streetlights, illuminating neighborhoods and enhancing safety for residents.

UPDATE: Puerto Rico's LUMA Sees Power Grid Reliability Progress

May 16, 2024
LUMA's latest report to the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau highlights tangible progress in reliability, clean energy, and grid resilience, signaling a transformation in the island's energy infrastructure.

Puerto Rico's reorganized electric utility LUMA filed its third-quarter report with the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB), highlighting strides made in various operational aspects between January and March of fiscal year 2024. 

LUMA, a joint venture of Quanta Services and Canada’s ATCO, is the successor of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which was reorganized under a public-private regime in 2021 following the impact of several severe hurricanes that crippled the island territory's grid.

Juan Saca, President and Chief Executive Officer of LUMA, also announced the launch of two major projects, "...the Vegetation Safety and Reliability Initiative and the Meter Modernization Initiative - that will prove vital to reducing future outages, improving reliability, and providing more information and better customer service. While we can all be proud of what we have accomplished to date, we truly believe the best is yet to come.”

At the IEEE Power Engineering Society’s Transmission & Distribution Conference & Exposition in Anaheim, Calif. last week, Fermin Fontanes, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority said he believes public-private partnerships are an effective model for the utility industry.

“We are moving from a self-regulated monopoly to private companies in Puerto Rico, which is driving an energy industry transformation,” Fontanes said.

Puerto Rico's reconstruction of its power grid began as a result of necessity — taking place in the wake of damaging hurricanes — Fontanes said the P3 model, as he called it, shows promise for improving and upgrading damaged, obsolete or inadequate T&D equipment.

Under such a system, utilities can consider what technological upgrades are best for the consumer without worrying about the impact on rates, he said.

“You can concentrate on what is best for the system,” he said. "The P3 model was a response to the hurricanes, but I think it will be a success.”

The report highlighted several key areas of progress:

Enhancing reliability: Over 450 automatic devices were installed, preventing 30 million service interruption minutes for customers during the third quarter.

Increasing resiliency: LUMA replaced more than 1,000 damaged utility poles with new ones capable of withstanding 160+ mph winds, fortifying system resiliency.

Clearing hazardous vegetation: LUMA cleared overgrown, hazardous vegetation from over 400 miles of priority transmission and distribution powerlines, initiating the FEMA-funded Vegetation Safety and Reliability Initiative.

Modernizing substations: LUMA replaced six transmission and five distribution circuit breakers and two remote terminal units, improving regional reliability through its Substation Modernization Initiative.

Installing streetlights: Over 24,000 streetlights were installed as part of LUMA’s $1 billion Community Streetlight Initiative, promoting safety and energy efficiency.

Expanding renewable energy: LUMA helped connect over 7,800 customers to rooftop solar, representing more than 56 MWof clean energy.

Advancing federally funded projects: LUMA submitted 48 detailed scopes of work projects to FEMA, representing an estimated $545 million investment in Puerto Rico's infrastructure.

Providing responsive customer service: LUMA launched SMS text alerts providing customers with restoration updates on reported service interruptions and transaction confirmations.

Increasing workforce and emergency training: LUMA completed over 10,000 hours of employee health and safety training and over 15,000 hours of field training through LUMA College for Technical Training.

Promoting energy efficiency: LUMA launched new energy efficiency programs for residential customers and distributed over 8,200 free energy efficiency kits.

Building a next-generation energy grid: LUMA initiated the FEMA-funded Smart Meter Initiative to install 1.5 million electric meters across Puerto Rico, facilitating quicker service restoration and providing enhanced customer features.

(Editor's Note: T&D World Managing Editor of Energy, Jeff Postelwait, contributed to this report.)

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of T&D World, create an account today!