In 2017, Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, and its aging electrical grid. In the hurricane's aftermath, and after decades of neglect and underfunding, the island's public electrical utility, PREPA, went bankrupt. In 2020, the government made the controversial choice to hand control of the grid over to the private sector. They awarded a 15-year contract to a new Canadian-American company, LUMA Energy.
And since LUMA Energy took over the electrical grid, the company has been a source of controversy, and faced harsh criticism on the island. There have been weekly protests against LUMA Energy, reggaeton star Bad Bunny has called the company out at concerts, and the governor of Puerto Rico has called on the CEO to resign.
Today, CBC senior investigative reporter Jonathon Gatehouse and Front Burner producer Allie Jaynes explain how Luma Energy and its Canadian co-parent became embroiled in controversy and what it all means for Puerto Rico's access to reliable electricity.
After this episode was released, five changes were made to the content. We originally reported that a penalty leveled at the Canadian co-parent company ATCO was described as the largest of its kind in Canadian enforcement history. The penalty was among the largest of its kind.
We also reported that a company called ASL could have made up to $100 million on a contract. The $100 million figure represents the capital costs of the project and not the profit. Additional information provided by Luma after publication was added at the end of the episode.
The headline was changed in the online and podcast version of this story. When published, the headline was "How a Canadian company became a public enemy in Puerto Rico." The headline is now, "How a Canadian-led company became a public enemy in Puerto Rico," to better reflect the leadership of the company.
Two sentences were altered following the receipt of additional information provided by LUMA Energy, after publication, that specified when a private firm was hired to make electrical repairs at Escuela Rafael Rivera Otero, and by whom.