With much of Puerto Rico still in the dark, Peco sends crews to restore power

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Equipment from New York utility Consolidated Edison was staged in Pennsauken in November before being shipped to Puerto Rico to help restore power. More than 30 percent of the island's customers are still without power, four months after Hurricane Maria struck.

Peco and several other area utilities are sending crews and equipment to assist in the restoration of electrical service in Puerto Rico, where more than 30 percent of customers are still without power four months after Hurricane Maria slammed the island.

Peco and five other utilities owned by Exelon Corp. — Atlantic City Electric, Delmarva Power, Baltimore Gas & Electric, ComEd in Chicago, and Pepco in Washington — announced Monday that they will dispatch 144 line workers to join a contingent of nearly 1,500 relief workers organized by the Edison Electric Institute.

“Electricity is a vital part of life, and the residents of Puerto Rico have been without for so long,” Peco chief operating officer Mike Innocenzo said in a statement. Peco will send about 16 line workers with the Exelon contingent.

More than 5,500 workers are restoring the island’s badly damaged state-owned utility, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, known as Prepa. In its latest posting, the Puerto Rican government says that service has been restored to more than 69 percent of customers, and 83 percent of power-generation capacity.

The Puerto Rican restoration has been slowed by the severity of the storm damage, the lack of mutual aid agreements with mainland utilities, and Prepa’s precarious financial condition before the storm hit. The response was further set back by Prepa’s awarding of a dubious $300 million no-bid contract to a small Montana company to aid in the restoration.

Mainland utilities typically are members of mutual-aid organizations and can enlist neighboring utilities to assist in storm-restoration efforts. They reimburse the responding utilities for their costs on a nonprofit basis.

The cost that utilities such as Peco spend to restore Puerto Rico’s power will be eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s public-assistance program, said Brian Reil, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute.

Peco on Tuesday will send its trucks and equipment to Wilmington to be loaded on a barge with gear from other utilities for shipment to Puerto Rico. The crews will fly down and meet the equipment when it arrives in early February, said Kristina Pappas, a Peco spokeswoman.

Several mainland U.S. utilities, such as AEP Ohio, have stepped up efforts to aid in the restoration of power in Puerto Rico.