Puerto Rico Facing Dire Conditions, Power Outages Threaten US Citizens’ Future

Puerto Rico Facing Dire Conditions, Power Outages Threaten US Citizens' Future

(UnitedReader.com) – The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico hasn’t suffered the impact of any hurricanes this year. Yet, it’s hard to tell, considering the abundance of power outages and other infrastructure shortcomings challenging daily living for the nearly 3.2 million people residing in the US territory.

Power Outages

Despite not suffering from hurricanes, citizens in the US territory still feel like they’re living in the aftermath of a significant storm. Power sources are difficult to find, putting the elderly and others with chronic medical conditions at risk.

Daily outages are forcing the closure of shopping malls, restaurants, and public schools. Students work with light from dying cell phones as some universities halt classes and others put a hold on their exams.

Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority and Luma, a privately owned company that distributes power across the island, have offered up a variety of reasons for the power outages. They have blamed clogged filtration systems, narrow pipes susceptible to blockages, mechanical failures, and a host of other causes.

A Band-Aid Is Not a Solution

In 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. The Category 4 storm ripped apart the territory’s power grid, leaving some citizens without electricity for nearly a year. While workers labored round the clock conducting emergency repairs to restore power, the Power Authority ultimately failed to take appropriate measures to strengthen the grid.

Juan Alicea, former executive director for the Electric Power Authority, recently stated that Puerto Rico is on the verge of a collapse. Alicea pointed to several factors contributing to the island’s power crisis. For example, he said that several Power Authority districts stopped maintaining generators under the assumption they were going to be replaced soon. Alicea also pointed to increasing retirement numbers and a lack of funding to upgrade existing infrastructure as contributors to Puerto Rico’s power outages.

Horrific Conditions

Without power in Puerto Rico, high temperatures are becoming unbearable, and food is spoiling. The lack of refrigeration has forced citizens to throw away perishable foods and resort to eating canned and dry goods. Many residents rely on power to cook food and have no choice but to eat cold meals without it.

48-year-old Iris Santiago, who suffers from several chronic health conditions, said she lives in constant anxiety due to the daily power outages. Similarly, Carmen Cabrer, 53, suffers from asthma and diabetes. Without power, she had to throw away her life-saving insulin. Cabrer also said she has to open the windows to fight the heat, forcing her to breathe in outside pollution, aggravating her asthma. She said the experience has left her tense and feeling abused.

Luma’s Initiative

The power company, Luma, took control of the distribution and transmission of electrical power in June with promises to reduce the number of interruptions by 30% and outage lengths by 40%. The company has administered selective rolling blackouts due to demand which exceeds supply on a daily basis.

The company plans to spend $3.85 billion to update the power system. Luma CEO Wayne Stenby noted that crews had restarted four substations, some that were out since Maria, calling it significant progress toward stabilizing the grid.

As local attorney Manuel Casellas recently pointed out, Hurricane Maria showed that Puerto Ricans “can’t live without electricity.” With any luck, officials can work to quickly improve the island’s systems.

Copyright 2021, UnitedReader.com