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Power has been restored to over a million after a massive outage in Puerto Rico

The majority of electricity customers in Puerto Rico who were left in the dark earlier this week following a massive outage that affected more than one million residents regained their power on Saturday.

The two entities responsible for providing electric services to 1.5 million electricity customers in Puerto Rico said their teams had been working hard since Wednesday evening when a circuit breaker at the Costa Sur generating station, one of the four main power stations on the island, caught fire. and caused the closure of the remaining power plants.

Power has been restored at least 1.3 million customers late Saturday morning, according to Luma Energy, the privately held Canadian-U.S. company that took over Puerto Rico’s power transmission and distribution last year.

While approximately 87% of customers have had access to electricity, Luma Energy also urged consumers to limit their energy consumption to avoid an increase in energy demand that could hamper the restoration process in going on in some of the major power stations.

Workers from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the bankrupt state-owned company responsible for controlling power generation units, reconnected at least seven of the shutdown plants.

On Saturday morning, the electricity authority said on Twitter that he began work on the reconnection of Puerto Rico’s two largest power plants, Costa Sur and EcoElectrica.

Costa Sur, Puerto Rico’s largest power plant, accounts for 57% of the island’s natural gas-fired power generation capacity. A series of strong earthquakes that hit southern Puerto Rico in 2020 significantly damaged both Costa Sur and EcoElectrica.

The massive outage has infuriated Puerto Ricans who are already paying almost twice as much as mainland customers for unreliable power.

On Friday evening, around 100 outraged demonstrators marched past the headquarters of Luma Energy. Some even threw eggs at the building and dropped off spoiled grocery bags that went bad after people couldn’t refrigerate them due to the blackout.

As the roar of generators and the smell of diesel filled the air in Puerto Rico for more than two straight days, local firefighters said they responded to at least 17 fires caused by generators. Two people were injured as a result of the fires, NBC sister station Telemundo Puerto Rico reported.

Puerto Rico’s electrical system was decimated by Hurricane Maria in 2017, triggering the second longest blackout in the world. Emergency repairs were carried out at the time, but reconstruction and essential work to upgrade the island’s antiquated power grid has yet to begin. Power company officials blame aging and poorly maintained infrastructure for the ongoing outages.

The federal government has already committed $12 billion in aid to revamp Puerto Rico’s energy sector. According to Luma, some of that money is currently being used to replace outdated circuit breakers like the one that blew up at the Costa Sur generating station.

At a Thursday afternoon press conference outside the damaged power station, a Luma Energy official said many of the circuit breakers replaced were over 40 years old – although such equipment normally has a lifespan. 30 years old.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is still restructuring its $9 billion public debt, the largest of any U.S. public company when it declared bankruptcy in 2017.

This isn’t the first time power plant fires have caused power outages in Puerto Rico. Last June, a large fire at a substation in San Juan left 900,000 customers without power. Another fire at a power station in September 2016 caused an island-wide power outage.

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