Hurricane Maria left the entire island of Puerto Rico without power. About fifty-five percent of the nation’s transmission towers were destroyed, but about 90 percent of the entire distribution network is out of operation. (Power Blackout). The problems could be compounded because the island’s electrical provider, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has previously filed for bankruptcy in July. However, the destruction caused by the storm might prompt a privatization of PREPA, giving the opportunity for greater efficiencies. (Slate)
Statistics aside, some see the necessary rebuild as a positive thing. Puerto Rico’s distribution system has been described as ‘rickety’ and in need of replacement prior to the storm. Some have called for a complete overhaul of the system from the ground up, not just a repairing of the existing system. (Grid Needs Overhaul). They have called for investments in wind, solar, geothermal, and other clean energy sources in an effort modeled after what is taking place in Hawaii, which is seen as a model of adaptive resiliency. Harnessing solar, wind and geothermal could have the benefit of decentralizing the power system, making is less vulnerable to widespread, long-term outages. (Northeastern.edu). If such a redevelopment of Puerto Rico’s power supply system and grid can be accomplished (a big “if” indeed), the process and result may help guide the looming reconstruction of our power grid on the mainland.