It would be an understatement to say that LUMA Energy had a challenging week in Puerto Rico, as the company had to handle two emergency situations, less than two weeks after it became the new operator of Puerto Rico’s electric power transmission and distribution system, effective June 1.
The first was a cyberattack reported on June 10, known as a targeted Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on the Mi LUMA customer portal and mobile application. A DDoS attack is an attempt to make an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple sources. The DDoS attack was identified and had been issuing 2 million hits per second on the LUMA site. As a result, many customers had difficulty accessing information related to their account.
The attack has been reported to pertinent authorities and LUMA awaits the results of an ongoing investigation.
However, the cyberattacks have apparently continued. EL VOCERO, the sister publication of THE WEEKLY JOURNAL, has reported that another attack was reported over the weekend. This attack was similar to the one last week, in which users could not access their accounts and were continually booted off the webpage. Government officials said the FBI has been notified and are continuing to investigate.
Mere hours after the cyberattack, a major transformer fire at a substation that serves the San Juan metro area left an estimated 800,000 customers initially without power, according to officials. Authorities said the unexplained explosion occurred at 6:11 pm on June 10 at the Monacillos substation.
No injuries were reported and fire, police and other emergency personnel were immediately sent to the scene. Officials said repairs could take an estimated two weeks.
The FBI is also investigating this incident and Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said if it is determined that the explosion was found to be caused by sabotage, then those responsible would be held to account.
As of 8 p.m. on Friday evening (June 11), LUMA had restored service to customers directly affected by the fire that took place at the Monacillos substation.
“We have not located the source of the fault; It’s clear that the electrical system here in Puerto Rico is very fragile,” said Wayne Stensby, president and CEO of LUMA.
“We were able to safely stabilize the system and make temporary repairs to restore service as quickly as possible. My gratitude goes out to all the LUMA employees and cooperating authorities for their hard work to safely manage the incident and restore power to our customers under challenging circumstances,” he added.
LUMA crews are continuing to work at the Monacillos substation to make repairs to the affected infrastructure.
The company also announced on Monday that the Union Insular de Trabajadores Industriales y Construcciones Eléctricas (UITICE) requested formal recognition as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for a bargaining unit of LUMA employees.
LUMA said that UITICE has reached majority status, confirmed by an impartial arbitrator, and recognizes UITICE as the bargaining representative for a bargaining unit of LUMA employees. “LUMA looks forward to commencing negotiations towards a collective bargaining agreement and establishing a relationship with the Union, governed by the National Labor Relations Act,” the company said in a statement.
“LUMA believes in instituting modern labor relations with its workforce that align with Company objectives of providing healthy and safe working conditions, exceptional customer service, a transformation of Puerto Rico’s electric power delivery system, industry standard compensation, equal opportunity, and promotion of a diverse workforce. LUMA anticipates that any future collective bargaining agreement will be consistent with Company objectives and enable LUMA to run its business for the benefit of the people, businesses, and government of Puerto Rico and LUMA employees,” LUMA added.
“LUMA’s parent companies have thousands of unionized employees and have constructive relationships with labor unions. LUMA looks forward to the opportunity to do the same in Puerto Rico,” the company said.