Bexaida Torres stands in the door of what is left of her home after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
Bexaida Torres stands in the door of what is left of her home after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, on April 10. Alvin Baez/Reuters

Almost seven months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is experiencing a complete power outage. The island’s electricity provider said it will take from 24 to 36 hours to bring power back across the U.S. territory.

Puerto Rico is again in the dark: The island is experiencing a complete power outage, its first since right after Hurricane Maria hit nearly seven months ago.

Puerto Rico’s state-owned power authority, AEE (also known as PREPA), said the failure was caused by a bulldozer that damaged line 50700, an important underground section of the grid near the island’s largest power plant, about 50 miles south of the capital, San Juan. The bulldozer was removing a collapsed electricity tower when it hit the power line. It was operated by a crew employed by Cobra Energy, a mainland-based subcontractor that AEE hired to help in the reconstruction process.

Reports say that no power plants are working on the island and that restoring electricity to 1.4 million customers could take up to 36 hours or longer. The entire island is affected, with the exception of Vieques and Culebra, two smaller islands off the east coast that are not connected to the main grid. Authorities are now focusing on restoring power at San Juan’s international airport (which is currently operating with a generator), hospitals, and banking institutions.

The island’s electricity system has not totally recovered from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria last September, when nearly 80 percent of power lines were knocked down. Last Thursday, a partial blackout left more than 800,000 people in the dark after a tree fell over parts of the grid during reconstruction efforts and debris removal, also conducted by Cobra Energy.

The cost of rebuilding Puerto Rico’s grid has been estimated at $17.6 billion. But Bruce Walker, an assistant secretary in the Department of Energy, recently told members of Congress that that number could change. Most of the repair efforts have been led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is said to have already spent $2.1 billion fixing the grid. Estimates of the total cost of Puerto Rico’s recovery from Maria have ranged from $40 billion to $95 billion.

Hurricane season starts on June 1, but the island is not prepared to face future storms, and debate continues over whether AEE should remain as a public entity or start a privatization process that could change the way power is generated in the territory. A complete modernization of the grid could take several years and cost tens of billions of dollars. And so far, restoring it has not included the resilience upgrades suggested by several energy experts after Maria.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Graffiti on a wall reads "Tourist Go Home."
    Life

    The Global Tourism Backlash

    A surge in tourism has led to a backlash in cities where residents feel overrun. How can these cities use tourism to their benefit?

  2. Illustration of a house with separate activities taking place in different rooms.
    POV

    The Case for Rooms

    It’s time to end the tyranny of open-concept interior design.

  3. Transportation

    Science Tackles the ‘Right Hook,’ Biking’s Most-Feared Crash

    Toronto researchers used eye-tracking devices to determine whether motorists were looking for bicycles when they turned right. Most weren’t.

  4. Roselyn Grullon, Amaurys Grullon, and Josue Caceres in front of their shop, Bronx Native on Lincoln Avenue. It is one of the new businesses by Bronx locals hoping to take control of the changes in the borough.
    Equity

    The Bronx: Don’t Call It a Comeback

    These Bronx natives have been here for years. In the midst of rapid gentrification, they say they are taking control and offering the borough cultural experiences that as youngsters, they had to venture downtown to find.

  5. Design

    Here Comes Amsterdam’s Manmade Island for Sustainable, Affordable Housing

    Centrumeiland will soon hold hundreds of affordable homes with the lightest of possible carbon footprints.