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NY Governor Announces Aid Agreement to Help Rebuild Puerto Rico Grid

Feb. 12, 2021
Renewed partnership to help Puerto Rico rebuild its power grid, improve emergency preparedness and response.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced the renewal of an agreement between the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to help Puerto Rico rebuild and reimagine its power grid, organize and maximize efficiencies in its utility operations, and prepare for future severe storms and geological events.

The renewed partnership builds on an agreement Cuomo announced in 2019 and paves the way for New York to continue its ongoing support efforts in partnership with PREPA, the government-owned corporation responsible for electricity generation, power transmission, and power distribution in Puerto Rico. 

"When Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, New York stepped up to the plate on day one to deliver critical resources to the island and help our neighbors recover in their time of need," said Cuomo. "This renewed partnership will allow us to continue our important work to build back Puerto Rico's power system stronger and more resilient than it was before, and help ensure the island is prepared to withstand severe weather events in the future."

Pedro R. Pierluisi, governor of Puerto Rico, said: "My administration looks forward to building on the relationship that Governor Cuomo and the NYPA have established with the Puerto Rican people. We are grateful for the assistance New York's utility team provided in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and we look forward to extending this productive partnership."

Under previous mutual aid agreements, the NYPA offered a range of technical expertise that helped Puerto Rico define and estimate its restoration and resilience needs. That consultation helped result in the award late last year of several billions of dollars in federal disaster recovery aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist with recovery and rebuilding of the island's energy infrastructure.

After the aid was awarded, NYPA teams also worked closely with PREPA, during a tight 90-day window — and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — to prepare a detailed 10-year spending plan for the FEMA funds that includes a list of projects, schedules, and cost estimates related to upgrading the energy infrastructure to the latest utility codes and standards with emphasis on smart-grid technologies.

In addition to helping the Puerto Rico utility prepare the FEMA documentation, the NYPA helped inspect 50 energy substations following the earthquakes early last year and assisted in restoring power to hundreds of homes across the island. It also helped prepare damage assessments and cost estimates to facilitate insurance claims.

As an owner and operator of several state-serving hydroelectric power plants, the NYPA has also been instrumental in sharing industry best practices with regard to the operation and structural integrity of Puerto Rico's seven small hydropower plants and numerous dams.

Under the terms of the new agreement, which will be in effect through June, the NYPA will continue to offer consultation on a range of issues relating to the rebuilding of Puerto Rico's grid, focusing specifically on these areas:

  • Technical assistance and advocacy: The NYPA will offer technical assistance to help stabilize Puerto Rico's power grid and prepare recommendations for rebuilding and hardening the island's power system so that it is better able to withstand the types of destructive weather events encountered on the island over the last decade. The NYPA is actively working with PREPA on a power system model to integrate renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs), such as microgrids, into the islands of Vieques and Culebra. This will prepare the utility to plan for necessary upgrades to manage these resources and serve communities throughout Puerto Rico.
  • Reform management and operations: The NYPA assisted PREPA in rebuilding its grid and reforming management and operations practices using lessons learned from the NYPA's experience in helping the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) manage power and infrastructure needs after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 — one of the most destructive and costliest hurricanes in U.S. history. 
  • Strengthen emergency preparedness: The NYPA will help PREPA strengthen its emergency preparedness and resilience initiatives as it rethinks its response to significant events, facilitates resolution of existing core challenges in Puerto Rico, and pursues continuous improvement of its energy operations.

Additionally, at the direction of Cuomo, the Department of Public Service, the New York State utility regulator, has been actively engaged with the state's utilities to enhance emergency response plans, develop plans to enable utilities to support one another with crewing during weather events, and continue efforts to make the electric system more resilient and reliable when implementing capital investments.

The activities outlined in the agreement build on the efforts of New York State to re-electrify Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017. Between the months of November 2017 and April 2018, more than 450 New York State utility personnel, led by the NYPA, went to Puerto Rico to help restore power. They brought with them hundreds of bucket trucks, diggers, excavators, and other specialized equipment to complete the necessary repairs to damaged transmission and distribution lines, and worked 16-hour days, seven days a week to help restore power.

To view videos of the New York utility contingent and the restoration of power in Puerto Rico, visit here.

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