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Thousands in Puerto Rico without power after earthquakes

The Takeaway
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Margaret Sullivan is a media columnist at The Washington Post

The Takeaway
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The recent earthquakes importer Rico have caused widespread power outages on the island leaving thousands of residents without electricity and while the power authority says it's restored electricity to around ninety six percent of the population intermittent outages remain the damages particularly severe in the southwest where officials say it could take more than a year to repair a major power plant in the region and but it bother Porter Rican electric power authority has been in crisis for years dealing with crumbling infrastructure frequent power outages and bankruptcy and that's why some community organizations like the Porter Rico community foundation are taking matters into their own hands they've started installing micrograms in low income areas after hurricane Maria Nelson Cologne the president of the organization says they've already completed for projects serving sixty four communities Weber whole land was global back in those for a proud day war powers by solar so they didn't have one day of corruption they didn't have any major style and they keep moving forward under former governor regardless say you'll Porter Rico had made an ambitious commitment to get one hundred percent of its energy from renewable sources like solar by twenty fifty but since Rosales resignation last summer those plans remain uncertain I'm joined now by Michael diapered an author and journalist based in San Juan and Sergio marques watch a policy director for the center for new economy also in San Juan thank you both for joining us thank you Michael you've been reporting on the aftermath of last week's earthquake tell us what the infrastructure looks like in the places that you visited so far I mean it's striking really I mean particularly in Quantico which was I would say the community most of your he hit on the south and the ironically also with the US military first landed in eighteen ninety eight when they when they invaded Puerto Rico you you have pretty widespread destruction and I would say the population as well you know there's quite a bit of of collapsed buildings and very few people still actually living in the in the center of the city a lot of people have moved elsewhere or living in you know make shifter temporary accommodations what is the power situation like in that region in the southwest part of the island I think it's come back in in some places but so many people are living in such kind of improvised accommodations I mean I don't think a lot of people have regular access to the fruits of electricity as there is you're used to having when they're living in their own homes and of course prep service can be somewhat spotty in normal times so to speak so that's been something that's been an ongoing problem even before the earthquake Michael you mentioned but I by which is the Porter Rico electric power authority there been calls for the executive director Jose R. tease to resign that's been hash tag Jose Ortiz great noon see ya tell us about that where does that stand I mean I think people are are pretty upset with his performance in an interview he said that you know he was called to lead prep and he didn't send the CD and anyone which I think gave a not really great impression to people about his attitude towards the crisis Sir your what it where his famous stand I mean we know they've had a spotty record with that the island so far since hurricane Maria are they able to repair the grid Congress actually appropriated two billion dollars just after you Ricky Maria twenty seventeen and they were your market specifically to modernize the grid that money unfortunately has not been disbursed yet deferral garment I don't know if it's for you must fault if it's the office of management and budget but something you definitely is holding up the money in Washington DC so you don't last may we said put Rico announced a very ambitious plan this is under governor because but our CEO who since stepped down after protests mounted on the island he set out an ambitious plan to get all of the islands electricity from renewables by twenty fifty what progress has the island made since then unfortunately very little approximately around five percent of all the electricity produced and put a recall right now comes from regal sources it's going to be very difficult to reach that target at this space we need of prep and the private sector to start investing a lot more aggressively in this renewable sources or otherwise we're just probably gonna miss it at all and not just the deadline I mean Sir do you do you think that this is ultimately a solution for these infrastructure issues given that there been natural disasters like hurricane Maria like the earthquakes going forward well it would certainly help as as we listened to doctor call on it he did mention that you know those communities that have access to many greats that were connected to solar panels did not suffer an outage and and that's the whole point I mean we're trying to change the system from a centralized system where you have five or six big units around the island to a lot of smaller generation capacity heated in many points across the island so when we have an earthquake say you want to go which is in the southwest part of the island these girls for example doesn't have to suffer a complete outage we mentioned that since oversee your has stepped down and there's been a lot of change importer Rico not just said natural disasters but also politically one bass was is the new governor of the island and she's got a new administration is their political will Sergio to continue to push for solar at that level that's going to be an interesting question Mrs basket is is from the same party as going across the yellow so in theory she would not have any political constraints in terms of pushing forward however she hasn't been very clear as to what your plan is going forward and of course we have elections in November so that could change everything Michael when you talked to residents of the island have been affected by this most recent wave of earthquakes our people all talking about solar energy directly are they talking about what one to Vasquez's saying or not saying or or are there concerns much more basic than that I think one thing is that people feel like they've been extremely battered in recent years but these natural disasters and it's really you know kind of rocking them back on their heels yet again and I think you know one thing that a lot of folks on the ground here is that they're just wondering I think English perhaps the state as a whole could be a little bit more responsive to their needs I think a lot of people may be feel that you know that the political parties in San Juan and it's an interesting figure that I always remembers that like seventy percent of the energy importer Rico I think it is is created in the south of the country and the usage is seventy percent of the north so it's kind of with this reverse relationship that places have and I think a lot of these people who don't necessarily feel like the political actors in in San Juan in the capital or really necessarily advocating for their interests all the time so here we've seen that to that point that some communities have decided to take the situation into their own hands and build their own solar power networks without government help how common is it for folks to do that and how effective is it it became a big part of the solution if you will just after here in my area because they were communities as you know that where without power for almost a year after the year Ricky so there there was a lot of interest mostly from the private sector and NGOs to try to get some independence from the government owned you know electricity company and there has been some success in terms of getting electricity many greats in some of the most isolated communities but we still have a long ways to go it's not a a hundred percent solution right now given that you know solar powers and agreed that we have it's really old so the greed will have to be modernized in order for poor regal to really scare up to the goals that were set up by gore and offers a yellow but it's it's a good start and also as I mentioned earlier we're still waiting for a significant amount of money that will be used to rebuild it read which is an essential component of reconfiguring the whole electricity system yeah Sergio marques watches the policy director for the center for a new economy and Michael divert as an author and journalist based in San Juan thanks to you both I