Puerto Rico sets 7th electric rate increase in just a year

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Officials in Puerto Rico announced another electric rate increase Wednesday, the seventh in a year amid continuing power outages and the U.S. territory’s economic crisis.

For a client that consumes 800 kilowatt hours, the new rate will be 33 cents per kwh, compared with the previous 29 cents. The average U.S. electric rate is 14 cents per kwh, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The rate increase will go into effect Friday, angering many on the island of 3.2 million people who just deal with constant power outages blamed on crumbling infrastructure due to lack of maintenance. In April, a fire at a main power plant sparked an islandwide blackout.

The increase comes as crews begin rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid that Hurricane Maria razed in September 2017, leavig some customers without power for up to a year.

The electric rate increases have occurred since Luma, a private company, took over transmission and distribution a year ago from Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, which is burdened with $9 billion in debt and is trying to emerge from bankruptcy.

Puerto Rico’s Energy Bureau said it would revise the electric rate by or before Oct. 1 amid concerns that the newest increase would spook potential investors already wary about the state of the island’s electric grid.

Puerto Rico’s power plants depend on petroleum to generate about 97% of electricity, with renewables generating roughly 3%. The government has pledged to lessen its dependence on fossil fuels in upcoming years.

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