ENVIRONMENT
10/16/2017 12:13 pm ET

Puerto Rico Plans To Have The Lights Back On By December -- At The Earliest

As of Friday, 83 percent of the hurricane-battered island was without electricity.

It’s been almost a month since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, knocking the island’s power grid entirely offline.

And it will be at least another two months until most of the U.S. territory sees electric service restored. That’s according to Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who said Saturday the government hopes repairs will bring back electricity to 95 percent of the island by Dec. 15.

The government’s timeline for fixing the grid calls for 30 percent of the island to be electrified by the end of October, 50 percent by mid-November, and 80 percent by Dec. 1. As of Friday, only 17 percent of Puerto Rico had power.

“This is an aggressive agenda, but we cannot be sort of passive in the face of Puerto Rico’s challenges,” Rosselló said. “We are going to need all hands on deck.” The governor added he wanted to set quantifiable goals “so that our people can have clear and established metrics.”

Carmen Correa uses a candle to light up a room at the Moradas Las Teresas Elderly House, where about two hundred elderly peop
Carlos Barria / Reuters
Carmen Correa uses a candle to light up a room at the Moradas Las Teresas Elderly House, where about two hundred elderly people live without electricity following damages caused by Hurricane Maria in Carolina, Puerto Rico, September 30, 2017.

Vital services like water purification, hospitals, and communication networks rely on a steady power supply, explaining why the Federal Emergency Management Agency has made repairing the power grid its No. 1 priority.

The official death toll from last month’s back-to-back hurricanes ticked up to 48 over the weekend, after three people suffered medical emergencies and were unable to access medical care. And as Vox reports, the real death toll is likely far higher, potentially in the hundreds.

The day-to-day can unravel in an instant,” Julie McNamara, an energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told HuffPost last month, referring to Puerto Rico’s loss of power. She noted other basic services, like sewage treatment and food preservation, become impossible without electricity, as do more modern needs like credit cards, ATMs, and the internet. 

For the time being, generators are powering much of the island’s critical infrastructure, making fuel shortages a matter of life and death. A number of solar power providers have rushed to aid the island, including Tesla, which wants to prove solar can be a long-term solution there.

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