Electric co-ops in the U.S. are joining a national effort across the power industry to support recovery efforts on Puerto Rico, which was left devastated late last year by Hurricane Maria.
Seven incident management teams (IMTs) will support ongoing power restoration efforts across the island. These IMTs, each comprising seven to 10 operations experts, will be assigned to seven key regions on the island and will coordinate with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
Several electric companies have entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with PREPA. The MOU was developed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), the American Public Power Association (APPA), and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).
It will serve as a vehicle that allows these organisations’ member companies to enter emergency agreements to provide resources and workers to PREPA on a not-for-profit basis.
The initial deployment will consist of storm response experts from investor-owned electric companies and public power utilities, with additional experts from electric co-ops joining in a second relief wave.
“Electric cooperatives are proud to support these additional resources to expedite restoration efforts in Puerto Rico,” said NRECA chief executive Jim Matheson.
“Co-ops have a unique understanding of the challenges involved in maintaining and restoring power in rural, rugged, and mountainous terrain. We look forward to bringing those skills to bear as part of this unified restoration effort.”
EEI president Tom Kuhn added: “Since our industry first received the request for mutual assistance from PREPA at the end of October, we have been working aggressively to provide crews, equipment, materials, expertise, and additional resources to assist with the massive power restoration mission.
“The development and agreement of the MOU and the deployment of the first IMTs represent major steps forward in getting the lights back on for so many who have been without power.”
“APPA is pleased to participate in such a broad-based, collaborative industry effort and to send an IMT to the island,” said APPA President and CEO Sue Kelly. “We all know that this restoration mission is complex and difficult, and we will continue to work together with PREPA and our federal partners to overcome these challenges.”
The effort follows steps by U.S. credit unions to help with recovery on the island. Credit union insurer CUNA Mutual sent several disaster response teams with emergency supplies to assist credit union workers affected by the disaster and help them restore services.
NRECA is the national service organization that represents the U.S.’s more than 900 not-for-profit, consumer-owned electric co-ops, which provide service to 42 million people in 47 states.
APPA is the voice of not-for-profit, community-owned utilities that power 2,000 towns and cities nationwide. APPA represents public power before the federal government to protect the interests of the more than 49 million people that public power utilities serve and the 93,000 people they employ.
EEI is the association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies. Its members provide electricity for about 220 million Americans.
The National Credit Union Foundation has a specific fund for relief efforts in Puerto Rico, at CUAid.coop.