The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) today presented Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power with the association’s special 2018 Emergency Assistance Award for Puerto Rico Power Restoration for their contributions to the unprecedented emergency power restoration mission in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
The devastating Category 4 hurricane made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, affecting all critical infrastructure, damaging at least 80 percent of the island’s energy grid and leaving all island residents without power.
A total of 35 line workers and support personnel from Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power spent two months restoring power in and near Maricao, a remote, mountainous area on the island’s western side. The first crew arrived in mid-January and worked until late February, when they were replaced by a second wave.
In addition, two logistics personnel were in Puerto Rico in December to help prepare for the industry response. Line trucks and other equipment and material for the crews were shipped to Puerto Rico on a barge.
“Hurricane Maria dealt a huge blow to the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico in September last year,” said Brad Oachs, ALLETE senior vice president and president of regulated operations. “We saw the need and the opportunity for our skilled workers to partner with U.S. electric industry resources to make a difference and help restore power to the island, the first time we sent crews outside the mainland United States. My sincere appreciation and thanks to the Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power employees who took time away from their regular work duties and their families to support the power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico, as well as those who worked to provide logistics for this initiative. I’m proud of how well ALLETE employees were able to support this important humanitarian effort.”
On Monday evening during a pregame ceremony at the San Diego Padres-Atlanta Braves baseball game, EEI honored all the lineworkers and support personnel who worked in Puerto Rico. Dean Erdman, Little Falls line crew supervisor, and Mike Stingle, Duluth lead lineworker, represented Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power at the ceremony.
Nearly 60 investor-owned electric companies and public power utilities committed crews, equipment, and/or materials to the emergency power restoration mission organized by EEI. Overall, about 3,000 industry line workers and support personnel were involved in the restoration effort on the island.
Electric companies from the mainland that provided mutual assistance to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) faced incredibly challenging and complex restoration work because extensive portions of Puerto Rico’s energy grid are in rugged, mountainous terrain that has little or no road access. Getting crews and equipment to Puerto Rico also was much more complicated and time-intensive than deploying mutual assistance in the mainland, and it required extensive coordination among responding companies.
On May 22, PREPA announced that power had been restored to 99 percent of its customers across the island who can receive electricity. This is a significant milestone that was reached by PREPA and its restoration partners, including FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its contractors, and industry mutual assistance crews. The resources, equipment, and people sent from the mainland, including line workers and support personnel from Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power, greatly accelerated the restoration process.
“The power restoration effort in Puerto Rico was a massive and unprecedented mission, and electric companies from across the country, including Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power, responded to the call for help,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn. “The electric power industry pulled together with one goal in mind, to restore power to the people of Puerto Rico — it truly was one team, one mission. Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power deserve this recognition for providing tremendous support to PREPA and our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.”
Minnesota Power provides electric service within a 26,000-square-mile area in northeastern Minnesota, supporting comfort, security and quality of life for 144,000 customers, 16 municipalities and some of the largest industrial customers in the United States. More information can be found at www.mnpower.com.
Superior Water, Light and Power provides electricity, water and natural gas in the city of Superior and adjacent areas in northwestern Wisconsin. The company has served the area since 1889 and provides services to approximately 15,000 electric customers, 13,000 natural gas customers and 10,000 water customers. More information can be found at www.swlp.com.