Society

Debate sparked on Puerto Rico power outage

Society

Debate sparked on Puerto Rico power outage

Bloomberg article suggests China best fit to rewire battered Caribbean island

Since Hurricane Maria knocked out power to Puerto Rico six weeks ago, only 30 percent of the homes and businesses there have had their electricity restored. The government and the Puerto Rico Electricity Authority have been seeking outside help to fix the problem.

None of this has anything to do with China until a Bloomberg article argued that China State Grid Corp is best fit to fix the failing power system on the Caribbean island.

The article, by Adam Minter, came after Puerto Rico officials announced on weekend to cancel the controversial $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings LLC, a Montana company with just two full-time employees prior to the award, to rebuild its electrical grid.

Minter said Puerto Rico should turn to companies with real expertise in repairing power grids in developing regions. “Of these, none would be better fit than State Grid Corp of China,” he wrote.

He realized that the mere idea might raise national-security alarms in Washington. “But it’s worth asking: What would it look like if China’s biggest power company were given the chance to rebuild Puerto Rico’s grid?” he wrote.

Minter has studied the State Grid Corp of China, citing its achievement in building electrical utility in some of the world’s most inaccessible terrain. In 2014, State Grid began work on a $1 billion, 945-mile transmission line in a mountainous area between Tibet and Sichuan province that require workers to labor at 12,500 feet, on average. And the project was completed in less than a year, well ahead of schedule.

The Chinese company has become one of the world’s leading developers of renewable energy generation and transmission technologies. “Both will be crucial if Puerto Rico is going to wean itself from its financially and environmentally ruinous dependence on imported fossil fuels,” he wrote.

The State Grid also has the money and the desire to do the job, according to Minter. The company generates nearly as much revenue in a year as Boeing and Apple combined. It has gone global since 2009 with investments in Brazil, Portugal, Australia, Italy and the Philippines.

Minter noted that there would be some national-security concern, saying that “China could, for instance, threaten to shut down the grid in a theoretical confrontation with the US”. But he said that that many of the concerns could be allayed beforehand.

One reader, named JC1010, taunted: “You mean, shut down like it is now?”

“China is the new bogeyman to blame for every wrong in the USA. There’s no way such an intelligent forward-looking policy would be allowed in the USA, especially not when it is politically difficult,” wrote a reader named Atp34

” Personally I say let the Puerto Ricans contract it out to the Chinese. Trump won’t do it though, as the Pentagon will push back on it and his nationalist/populist supporters will howl in rage,” wrote another named Elvis.

China has long objected to the fear-mongering of Chinese foreign direct investment in the US. Speaking to press on Monday, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai criticized the US for often using unspecified national security as an excuse to block Chinese investment in the US. “Is this going backwards from the opening up?” he asked.

chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com

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