Longtime energy executive Walter Higgins has been named to shore up Puerto Rico’s shattered utility PREPA.
The appointment of Higgins—first reported by Reuters and confirmed by others— comes six months after the Puerto Rico grid was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Some parts of the island are still without power.
Higgins comes to PREPA after four years leading Bermuda-based Ascendant Group. He also has held leadership roles at Portland General Electric and Atlanta Gas Light Co.
Even before Maria hit, PREPA filed for bankruptcy with some $9 billion in bond debt. The utility’s power grid infrastructure averages 45 years old, compared with 18 years old on the U.S. mainland. Electricity bills on Puerto Rico are routinely double that of customers on the contiguous U.S. — a symptom of the island territory’s reliance on imported fossil fuels to generate power.
Among the island’s electrical issues are an aging power grid and frequent blackouts, including an island-wide blackout in September 2016.
The Puerto Rico government has said it would possibly privatize the utility.