As Puerto Rico’s Autoridad de Energia Electrica (AEE) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers slowly rebuild the island’s electric grid following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, let’s remember that Puerto Rican residents, especially in the last four years, pay one of the highest rates for electricity in the United States. How high is the price of electricity when compared to the rates paid by Americans in other states? We will explore this question in a few days.
These rates were obtained from the U.S. Energy Information Agency which started to collect information for Puerto Rico in 2014. The other rates were collected by the Puerto Rico Energy Commission.
On November 17, 2017, Ricardo Ramos stepped down as the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). Governor Ricardo Rosselló quickly accepted his resignation and noted that controversies connected to Ramos’s decisions post-Maria had become a distraction. Once he appointed an interim replacement, Rosselló reemphasized that the goal is to restore electricity to 95% of PREPA’s customers by Christmas. Is this objective feasible? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as noted in previous posts, has made it clear that they expect to restore power to most Puerto Ricans by February 2018.
In today’s graph, we chart the percentage of electricity generated by PREPA from September 5, 2017 – the day before Hurricane Irma skirted the island’s northeast coast – to November 17.
The data before September 29, 2017 was collected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office for Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration. The rest has been made public in the Puerto Rican’s Government Portal – StatusPR. This is not to say that this portal’s information is accurate. For instance, on November 15 it reported that PREPA’s electricity production was at 50% but the information did not take into account a power outage that reduced production to around 20%, increasing to 37% by that night.
As of today, November 18, PREPA’s electricity generation is still under 50%. It is not clear how many Puerto Ricans actually have electricity at home, as PREPA and the Puerto Rican government claim that they can’t provide an accurate estimate. The U.S. Department of Energy on November 16 noted that 57 out of 78 municipalities “are partially energized or have energized facilities”.
Many Puerto Ricans, especially in the island’s interior, have had no power for over 70 days.
The United States, including its territories in the Caribbean, has been affected by three major hurricanes this season. The graph above shows that Google users in the United States paid closer attention to Hurricane Irma than to Hurricanes Harvey or Maria. Data for this graph was collected using Google Trends.
It is not surprising that Hurricane Irma received the most attention. Once the world’s media reported on Barbuda’s and St. Martin’s destruction after Irma’s passing, people in the Caribbean and the U.S. Southeast started to take the hurricane very seriously. Hurricane Irma’s eye wall spared most of Puerto Rico, but Vieques, Culebra and the U.S. Virgin Islands were not as lucky.
Although Hurricane Maria was likely the most destructive of the three storms, Irma affected the most people, followed by Harvey. Given that Google Trends counts the amount of searches Google users make, it seems logical that the hurricane that affects the most people is also the one that receives the most attention.
Could another reason explain the differences between Google users’ interest? What about the U.S. media’s interest? Did media’s coverage of these three hurricane mirror Google searches? We will explore this in another post. What do you think? Feel free to share your views.