More than 1,000 electric utility workers will descend on Puerto Rico in January in a major new push with federal agencies to finally fix Puerto Rico's ailing electric grid.
The wave of 1,500 workers will arrive on the U.S. island territory in early January, said the Edison Electric Institute, the lead trade association for investor-owned utility companies that are leading the response with the government.
The trade group announced the effort Tuesday night, saying a total of 5,500 utility workers will be on the island as part of the major push to assess and fix the island's damaged electric grid.
At least 30 percent of Puerto Rico's residents are still without power in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, according to reports.
A recent report by the nonpartisan Rocky Mountain Institute said 50 percent of the island's residents went without power for two months, marking the longest loss of electric power in U.S. history.
The new response plan is to complete a "full damage assessment" of Puerto Rico’s grid and use that information to develop and update a "closely coordinated restoration plan" for the island.
The electric utility industry has been working with Puerto Rican authorities the last several weeks to improve logistics and put in place the infrastructure necessary to complete their mission in 2018, say sources close to the effort.
Carlos Torres, a former official with the New York utility firm Con Edison, said the industry has been working with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, to develop a "master restoration plan," which will be updated once the new crews arrive.
Torres was appointed as the island's power restoration coordinator by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló after a mutual assistant agreement was finalized between mainland and island authorities in November.
"As part of this mutual assistance deployment, hundreds of trucks with tools and equipment will be loaded on ships this week and barged to Puerto Rico, and our goal is for the nearly 1,500 mutual assistance crews from the mainland to arrive on the island by Jan. 12,” Torres said Tuesday.
EEI President Tom Kuhn said the incident management teams that are already on the island have been helping to back PREPA’s organizational structure and logistics capabilities to help the electric authority put the arriving line workers and support personnel to work as soon as they arrive.
"These new crews will help to accelerate the restoration mission and to restore power safely and as quickly as possible for the people of Puerto Rico,” Kuhn said.