Puerto Rico Hit by New Blackout Just as Governor Touts Recovery

(Bloomberg) -- A new power outage hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday, immobilizing parts of the San Juan area just hours after the governor heralded a major accomplishment on the path to recovery.

Earlier in the morning, Governor Ricardo Rossello had told his 140,000 Twitter followers that the Puerto Rican power utility had reached a short-term goal of getting power output back to 50 percent of normal levels, adding the hashtag, “#PRSeLevanta," or Puerto Rico pulls itself up.

The celebration lasted till the lights went out. A statement from the power agency said a technical problem in a plant was responsible for the outage.

Almost two months after Hurricane Maria slammed into the U.S. commonwealth, most of the island’s households remain without power as the government prioritizes healthcare facilities and other core infrastructure. San Juan has been better off than many rural areas, where the destruction has proven far greater. Meanwhile, the rebuilding of the grid remains the island’s greatest financial challenge and a major political flashpoint in San Juan and Washington.

Adding to the discord, the head of a major electric-utility union who spoke to reporters Wednesday questioned why much of the generation capacity at the Palo Seco plant near San Juan remained idled.

The union leader, Angel Figueroa Jaramillo, said restarting Palo Seco’s existing infrastructure would significantly reduce future blackouts, because the metropolitan area would rely less on energy generated at the opposite end of the island that has to travel significant distances. The government has said the plant is closed due to safety concerns, but that argument hasn’t satisfied detractors.

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