Puerto Rico’s governor courts new investors to rebuild the power grid

Gov. Ricardo Rossello says Puerto Rico needs new money to rebuild the hurricane-damaged “1950s energy grid”. Rossello told CNBC on Wednesday that investment is needed from public and private sources to update the grid and help rebuild the island, advancing into energy 2.0. However, attracting new investors may prove difficult considering the island’s history of financial troubles and current $70 billion battle in federal court in New York to decide which parties should be paid first on defaulted Puerto Rico bonds. 

To potential investors, Rossello said, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We have essentially a blank canvas to do an energy grid that’s a model for the world and for a lot of investment to come. The first step is to make the laws applicable to that in Puerto Rico. Secondly, we have an oversight board in Puerto Rico which limits our capability of going to ask for money.”

The governor expressed his opposition to new cuts being demanded by the island’s federally appointed financial oversight board (established in 2016 to help restructure PR debt), which recently unveiled a push for pension cuts and labor reforms. “We’re making the biggest cuts in the modern history of the United States in government right-sizing. When we see they add more austerity cuts, we feel that it’s going to impact negatively the economy,” Rossello said.

The governor has said he plans to privatize the bankrupt Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority, known as PREPA.