Puerto Rico - LUMA - Pierluisi Governor Pedro Pierluisi has defended the company based in the US and Canada, despite several street protests and demands from people on social media for him to cancel Luma’s 15-year contract.
Image via AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo, file.

Blackouts and their duration have increased since last January, as confirmed by a new report.

Puerto Ricans’ patience was tested again Thursday when a new report from Puerto Rico’s Energy Bureau showed an increase in the duration of outages per customer every month since January, averaging 21 hours. 

The report comes out on days when thousands of subscribers have experienced blackouts, a situation that has been increasing month after month.

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The constant blackouts are affecting Luma’s 1.5 million clients and the island’s economy. Some businesses had to close, since they cannot afford to run generators on expensive fuel. One of Puerto Rico’s largest hospitals was left without power last week when one of its generators failed in the middle of an outage.  

The bureau said Luma and Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority (PREPA) have until Sept. 1 to explain the slump in those and other metrics, as it threatened to impose penalties.

During a news conference on Thursday, Luma officials said progress has been made, and said the neglect and mismanagement that occurred under PREPA’s, which is trying to restructure more than $9 billion in debt, are not going to be fixed in a year.

For the first time since Luma began operating on the island a year ago, Governor Pedro Pierluisi criticized the company. 

The governor has defended the company based in the US and Canada, despite several street protests and demands from people on social media for him to cancel Luma’s 15-year contract, which will give them a profit of 1.5 billion, approximately.

“I am not satisfied with the performance of Luma. It is obvious to me that you have to make changes to your execution plan to significantly improve the service you are offering our people,” Pierluisi said in a statement.

Luma and Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority have blamed an aging infrastructure, lack of maintenance, bad weather, sargassum, and even an iguana for the blackouts. 

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“Although I recognize that the electrical network we have is fragile and obsolete, it is Luma’s responsibility to operate it under the critical and emergency state in which it finds itself,” Pierluisi said.

Fires at substations have become increasingly common, and Puerto Ricans have posted social media videos of crackling and sizzling equipment, as well as pictures of what they say are absurdly high power bills. Seven electricity rate increases requested by Luma have been approved by Puerto Rico’s Energy Bureau this year so far.

Associated Press contributed to this story