PREPA Selects Burns & McDonnell for Reconstruction, Grid Modernization

Jan. 20, 2021
Burns & McDonnell to support PREPA with the revitalization of Puerto Rico's electrical grid.

Burns & McDonnell has been awarded a contract for program management services to support the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) with the revitalization of Puerto Rico's electrical grid. The work will be primarily funded by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and caused catastrophic damage to the grid. Much of the island's transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure was severely damaged by the storm and there was a complete loss of power in all 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico.

"The sheer scale and widespread devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Maria on the power grid has created an opportunity to completely rebuild it in a resilient and modern way," said Efran Paredes, CEO of PREPA. "We are working to reduce energy costs, promote smart energy consumption, and protect the environment. Ultimately, and most importantly, we want to deliver a grid to the people of Puerto Rico that is resilient to severe weather conditions in the future. As the leader in T&D, we look to our new partnership with Burns & McDonnell to rebuild our electrical infrastructure."

Burns & McDonnell's contract for program management services will include project formulation and funding, project management, design management services, environmental and historic preservation services, construction management services, accounting services, procurement management services, program administration, and other business office functions.

Gabriel Hernandez, general manager, Burns & McDonnell Caribbean, said: "It is well known that the grid serving the island was in a deteriorated condition prior to Hurricane Maria. The damage Hurricane Maria caused to the island was astounding. We are honored to help build a system that is reliable and resilient to future storms. The people of Puerto Rico have suffered a great deal and we are absolutely committed to doing our part to build the power system they deserve. Resiliency is a major focus and much of the electric grid needs to be rebuilt to current codes and standards to improve system reliability."

The first priority for the Burns & McDonnell team, in collaboration with key stakeholders and advisers, is to create a portfolio of projects to be executed over the next 10 years. The plan includes projects to not only revitalize the power grid but also provide the level of modernization that is required to implement Puerto Rico's new energy policy as set forth by the integrated resource plan (IRP) and other regulations approved by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau. Other initial priorities will include strengthening the island's transmission backbone, hardening or relocation of electric substations in flood areas, and strategic distribution underground.

"Under the Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act, which was signed into law in May 2019, PREPA has to obtain 40% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025, 60% by 2040, and 100% by 2050. We will work with PREPA to develop long-range and strategic plans consistent with the renewable public policy. The integration of renewables into Puerto Rico's power generation capacity and microgrids certainly have the potential to be a part of the solution," said Ken Gerling, VP of program management, Burns & McDonnell.

The Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnership Authority (P3A) awarded Luma Energy the contract for operations and maintenance (O&M) for Puerto Rico's T&D system. As program manager, Burns & McDonnell will also coordinate with Luma to identify and prioritize projects that will lead to greater O&M efficiency.

A team of employee-owners from Burns & McDonnell, including several from Puerto Rico, were deployed to the island immediately after the hurricane to support grid restoration activities. Many of these employees will leverage knowledge gained about Puerto Rico's power grid during the restoration work to also support various program management activities. Burns & McDonnell plans to invest in the community, hire local employees, and engage local companies to support the multi-year project.

"Since the hurricane, the system condition has been assessed by multiple parties, including Burns & McDonnell through our work in the restoration phase and through our scoping and estimating efforts used to assist PREPA in the development of the portfolio of projects to be constructed over the next 10 years. Based on these assessments, a high-level plan has been developed for the hardening and modernization of the power grid. Initially, Burns & McDonnell will work with PREPA to develop a detailed execution plan for the program based on specific system priorities and goals," said Hernandez.

For the last year, Burns & McDonnell has also been collaborating with PREPA to provide training for its engineering group in the areas of grid modernization technologies and seismic design. This has helped to fill a knowledge gap that was created by the loss of nearly 40% of PREPA's highly skilled operational workforce.

"Burns & McDonnell is honored to help rebuild Puerto Rico's infrastructure,” said Mike Brown, president of Burns & McDonnell International. "We are passionately committed to this project, our clients, and the people of Puerto Rico."

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