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Puerto Rico utility CEO: 990-MW Central Costa Sur power plant 'is a disaster'

At a press conference held late-morning Jan. 9, Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said the entire island could expect the lights to be back on soon in the wake of a series of devastating earthquakes that caused heavy damage to the U.S. territory earlier in the week.

"Our projection, as you have heard, is that during the weekend, or Monday, we will have 100% of customers with energy services," Vázquez Garced said.

However, earlier that morning, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority CEO José Ortiz told a local radio station that one of the island's main generating stations, Central Costa Sur, remained down at the time and that power had not yet been restored to over 750,000 ratepayers.

"Costa Sur is a disaster," Ortiz said, adding that it will take many months, or even up to a year, to make necessary repairs. "There is structural damage, and there is damage to the equipment."

The 990-MW Central Costa Sur plant, in the Guayanilla and Peñuelas municipalities of Puerto Rico, burns residual fuel oils. Three other fuel-fired plants — the San Juan, Complejo Aguirre and Palo Seco facilities — join Central Costa Sur to provide the bulk of the muni's 6,023 MW of total installed capacity, according to the utility.

In 2019, renewables supplied just 2.3% of the island's generation. Coal-, petroleum- and natural gas-fired generation provided 18%, 40% and 39% of the island's installed capacity, respectively, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Much of Puerto Rico's population lives in the north, according to the EIA, while the utility's largest generation stations are in the south, necessitating 2,400 miles of transmission and 30,000 miles of distribution lines to crisscross the island.

On the morning of Jan. 10, the utility tweeted that it had restored power to 80% of its customers, according to a media report. That tweet appeared to have subsequently been deleted.