Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) said that the power outages in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Fiona was “tragically predictable” and could have been mitigated with sustainability measures that she and climate advocates have promoted.
High winds knocked outThe entire U.S. territory’s electrical grid was shut down for more than 1.4 million customers on Sunday just before the hurricane struck. This happened five years after Hurricane Maria caused a similar island-wide blackout, which took almost a year to repair. However, the system was plagued in constant blackouts. Luma Energy, a private firm that took over the transmission and distribution of Puerto Rico’s power last year, said that it could take several hours for power to be fully restored.
The island’s energy grid has gone through many changes over the past years, with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which oversaw the energy grid before Luma took over, running into $9 billion of debt.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has injected funds into programs to restore the energy projects, but lawmakers — including Ocasio-Cortez — criticized that funding in a letter last year, saying that PREPA’s restoration plans would only entrench fossil fuels and the problems that the island’s energy grid have already faced for years.
Ocasio-Cortez highlighted the letter on Tuesday, saying that lawmakers’ prediction has now come true.
“More than 4 years after Maria and Irma wiped out power for 70 percent of the Island, the grid was still extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. This weekend’s infrastructure failure was tragically predictable,” she wroteFollow us on Twitter.
“We now have the chance to do something different,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “We can help Puerto Rico’s economy and vulnerability to climate change by building a reliable, sustainable grid that will create thousands of jobs. We must break the vicious cycle of rebuilding vulnerable fossil fuel infrastructure.”
The island’s power grid is almost entirely powered by fossil fuels, and FEMA’s $9.4 billion funding planThe island is almost entirely earmarked for fossil fuel infrastructure. Despite the fossil fuel industry’s long-running campaign to paint fossil fuels as reliable, power on the island is intermittent and even small stormsThis can reduce power to thousands.
In their letter, lawmakers said that using these funds to transition the island to a higher renewable energy mix would “break the vicious cycle” of extreme weather damage and the further entrenchment of fossil fuels.
Ocasio-Cortez added in an interviewMonday: Latino Rebels that, as Congress considers plans to respond to the current crisis, it is an opportunity to fund a “just transition” to renewable energies and resilience efforts likeBuilding power cables underground
She also echoed calls from labor unionsCommunity activists who have Long calledPuerto Rico government to end its contract with Luma
Though the power grid’s reliability has not seen significant improvements under Luma — and while thousands of unionized PREPA workers lost their jobs in the transition to the company — customers are now payingLuma imposed a double rate on electricity. According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), Puerto Ricans now spend 8 percent of their incomes for electricity. This compares to 2.4 percent in the U.S.