Puerto Rico Faces Major Blackout Amid Heatwave; Luma Energy Under Scrutiny

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Nestled in the heart of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico found herself in the midst of adversity as a near-total blackout descended on the island. On a sweltering day in the capital, San Juan, plus surrounding districts, darkness held dominion over the territory due to an unexpected outage. The abrupt disruption in power supply, which affected more than 340,000 customers, came during a particularly oppressive heatwave.

However, Luma Energy – the power whole responsible for the electricity supply – declared a reassuring statement early Thursday. In the face of the massive blackout, the company confirmed that electricity supplies had been resuscitated to most areas of the metropolitan and northeastern regions of the island.

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Luma Energy attributed the outage to failures in two transmission lines that stretched between San Juan and Aguas Buenas. This news came as a beacon of hope for those affected, yet it hardly absorbed the tension brewing within the territory.

The power dysfunction sparked calls from Puerto Rican lawmakers for the state to declare an emergency to the federal government. Continuous power outages inflicted interruptions in water services, carried alarming risks to vulnerable residents – the elderly and the sick – who depended on electricity to fuel life-supporting devices and store temperature-sensitive medication, such as insulin.

The massive blackout on Wednesday night marked the climax of an ongoing electricity supply override that had cast a shadow over the island’s southern region for more than a week. Jenniffer González, Puerto Rico’s representative in the U.S. Congress, categorized the lingering power problems as “dangerous,” suggesting an energy emergency declaration.

A response to such a call would necessitate proactive assistance from significant U.S. entities such as the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Her proposition was echoed by numerous island mayors who mirrored her concerns.

Undoubtedly, the power outage unfurled a domino effect across Puerto Rico. As the sun set on Thursday, almost 5,000 customers across the island remained engulfed in darkness. Certain eastern municipalities were stripped of water availability, and the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan abandoned all summer session classes due to the escalating crisis.

Groups of unions eventually initiated protests against Luma Energy and Genera PR. These two major corporations are responsible for the island’s power transmission and generation. The unions demanded that the government terminate the contract with Luma Energy, citing that constant power disruptions had wrought severe repercussions on the lives of its citizens.

Governor Pedro Pierluisi responded to the escalating crisis by declaring his intention to deploy the National Guard to aid in the restoration of the power grid. Additionally, he pledged to launch a thorough investigation into allegations of negligence on the part of Luma Energy and Genera PR. At a news conference held, he asserted if the companies were the cause of the negligence, they would pay for the crisis out of their own funds.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.