LUMA personnel and crews continue this afternoon recovering the electrical system after the fire reported last night at the Monacillo substation.
As of 3:00 p.m. today, 19,000 electrical system customers remain without service. Of those,13,000 are directly served by the transformer damaged by the fire yesterday.
Installation continues of the mobile substation that was transported to Monacillo to replace the one affected yesterday by the fire. Once that installation is complete, LUMA will reconnect the 13,000 customers directly affected by the fire. The current estimated time to complete the system restoration is 8:00 p.m.
“We continue to work hard to provide electric service to all of our customers. As we have emphasized before, we focus on the safety of both our employees and our customers,” said Wayne Stensby, president and CEO of LUMA.
Earlier today, Stensby had stated that the company aims to restore all power by 6:00 p.m., two hours earlier than the current estimate.
"We are still working on identifying the cause of the explosion, but we still don't know," he said. An investigation is being carried out by Puerto Rico Police and Firefighters with support from the FBI.
Accompanied by the director of System Operation Projects of the company, Gary Soto and the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), Efran Paredes; and the secretary of the Department of Public Security (DSP), Alexis Torres, updated information Friday morning on what happened in the Monacillos substation fire at 6:11 p.m. yesterday.
At that time, an explosion in a transformer at the Monacillos substation, in Río Piedras, left some 900,000 subscribers without electricity, as the LUMA CEO acknowledged this morning. The original figure reported was 800,000 customers without power.
Regarding the cause of the explosion, Torres said that it is a complex process to identify.
Around 9:30 p.m. last night, LUMA reported that it had begun to gradually restore service. First, 100,000 users and that it would take between 6 and 8 hours to return electricity to the rest of the subscribers throughout the island.
An estimated 800,000 customers were initially left without power
Near 6 a.m. today, the company announced through a tweet that "the restoration has slowed down because now it will be necessary to send brigades to verify circuits. All the load that can be restored remotely has been restored." At that time, the customers without electricity were 48,000.
An hour later, LUMA updated the number of subscribers without electricity: "Currently 45,000 customers are still without service."
Last night, in the vicinity of Monacillos, he said that the priority was to restore service: "At this time, we do not have the primary cause of the event, we are working with great security and we are in the process of energizing customers who have been affected."
Moreover, Paredes specified that, in terms of PREPA's generation, it was “starting the machines that went out of service due to the event. We started units in Mayagüez. We kicked off remote units. We have no report of any damage to any unit. In the next few hours we will be putting the system in service of all the units to restore the system."
Possible Act of Sabotage
Torres confirmed last night that security components had moved from the Ponce areas to San Juan. “There is the cooling part and we are being cautious investigating at the same time as well. I can tell you that both the Puerto Rico Police Bureau and the FBI are on the scene and we are looking at all angles," Torres said.
Asked by THE WEEKLY JOURNAL if the event could be the result of sabotage, he replied: "I won't even deny or confirm that. We are simply in an investigation, we are at a stage in that process seeking to identify the reasons."
Meanwhile, LUMA's security director, Michelle Hernández de Fraley said yesterday that to enter the area the employee must have a control number. “In terms of security, all that area, to be able to enter you have to have a control number. Right now we are dropping the number of people who have had access to the substation in the last few weeks. Besides that, there are cameras all over Monacillos, especially the substation and we have law enforcement officers who are checking the cameras."
For his part, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said in a missive that "whoever is responsible for it will have to respond to the People of Puerto Rico."
Meanwhile, Ricardo Santos -former president of the Electric Industry & Irrigation Workers Union (Utier)- affirmed in an interview with Notiuno 630 that "if there was sabotage in the fire at the Monacillos substation, it will be the responsibility of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi and the executives of the Consortium."
Utier members and former PREPA workers have been highly critical of the agreement that allowed LUMA to take over the island's energy transmission and distribution on June 1. Since then, there have been multiple protests and various incidents, from Utier affiliates reportedly destroying the wheels of LUMA vehicles or impeding access to the company's employees, to an alleged cyberattack reported yesterday, mere hours before the fire.
Six to Eight Days to Restore Service
As for the time it would take to restore service to subscribers, Soto, for his part, said last night that the complete system should be restored in six to eight hours.
"We are working to put into service the units that remain pending and that left the system during the event that occurred here in Monacillos and that spread throughout the metropolitan area, east and central area," said Soto, who stated that "Monacillos is the brain of our electrical system." According to the 6 a.m. message published by LUMA, it took them that long to restore power to almost everyone affected.
Meanwhile, the figures reported on the Internet by PREPA differed last night from those reported by LUMA. Originally, the Authority said that 366,640 customers of the 1,468,223 they have together with LUMA Energy in 373 sectors of seven municipalities were affected. In its report on the Internet, at 9.13 p.m. 69,248 customers had their power restored and 369 sectors were affected. By 7:57 a.m., 36,375 customers were still without service.
- Reporter Giovanna Garofalo contributed to this story.