Florida Power & Light Co. has announced 140 company lineworkers and support staff are traveling to Puerto Rico to help restore power to areas impacted by Hurricane Maria. Hundreds of thousands of customers remain without electric service nearly four months after the destructive storm made landfall in the island.
"We remain committed to doing everything we can to help restore electric service to our fellow Americans citizens of Puerto Rico," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "This is what we do in the electric utility industry. Our lineworkers are thoroughly trained, well-equipped and eager to get into the field to start making a difference in Puerto Rico where so many of our employees have strong ties. We recognize just how difficult it is to be without power after a major hurricane, which is why our leadership team remained on the island throughout the Christmas holiday. Now, we're working to quickly assemble crews, trucks and electric equipment to join this next wave of support. We will remain on the island as long as we're needed."
All of the island's 3.5 million residents lost power due to Hurricane Maria in late September. FPL lineworkers and staff are part of a nearly 1,500-person contingency of electric workers from Edison Electric Institute (EEI) member, U.S. investor-owned utilities scheduled to arrive in Puerto Rico in early January. Ahead of their arrival, FPL will transport vehicles and electric equipment via barges from the Port of Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County, Fla.
The company's lineworkers and support staff will work with the 10-person FPL incident management team (IMT) that's been working in Puerto Rico since Dec. 10. FPL employees represent one of seven IMT assigned to seven regions across the island in coordination with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and electric company contractors who already are restoring power. FPL's IMT will continue to support power restoration in the region of Bayamon, just west of San Juan.
FPL's support of power restoration in Puerto Rico began after the energy company completed its own restoration in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. In the days immediately following Hurricane Maria, NextEra Energy, FPL's parent company, donated $100,000 and matched the same amount from employee donations to help those affected by the storm. Many employees also held fundraisers and supply drives to assist those impacted across the island.
"With so many of our customers and employees having family and other connections to Puerto Rico, we feel a responsibility to help get the lights back on," said Manny Miranda, senior vice president of power delivery for FPL. "Our lineworkers and staff are battle-tested, having just completed the unprecedented restoration of more than 4.4 million FPL customers in the wake of Hurricane Irma. I have no doubt that our most-experienced lineworkers – working hand-in-hand with our leadership team – will hit the ground running to help restoring service safely and as quickly as possible."
Operationally, FPL coordinated the delivery of thousands of power line poles and other equipment to Puerto Rico and accompanied Florida Governor Rick Scott to the island in November. Since that time, FPL leadership has remained in Puerto Rico where it has been providing technical expertise and guidance to support the restoration effort. Gov. Scott has made the support of Puerto Rico's citizens a top priority in the wake of Hurricane Maria, communicating regularly with Governor Rosselló, traveling to the island to offer the state's assistance, and regularly meeting with and being briefed by FPL.
Mutual assistance throughout the energy industry plays a critical role in the restoration of power following severe weather events, such as hurricanes, ice storms and tornadoes. In September, crews from 30 states and Canada came to Florida to support the more than 4.4 million FPL customers following Hurricane Irma. In fact, those workers, coupled with FPL's more than $3 billion of investments over the past decade to build a stronger and smarter energy grid, helped shave days off the restoration.
In turn, FPL crews have traveled across the nation to help restore power following major weather events many times in the past, including the deployment of approximately 1,000 FPL personnel to the Northeast in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Recently, more than 300 men and women deployed to Maine and Connecticut to assist with restoration activity following an October Nor'easter.