KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Burns & McDonnell has been awarded a contract for program management services to support the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) with the revitalization of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. The work will be primarily funded by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) funds from the U.S. Department of Housing. In 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and caused catastrophic damage to the grid. Much of the island’s transmission and distribution infrastructure was severely damaged by the storm and there was a complete loss of power in all 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico.
“The sheer scale and widespread devastation and destruction caused by Hurricane Maria on the power grid has created an opportunity to completely rebuild it in a resilient and modern way,” says Efran Paredes, CEO of PREPA. “We are working to reduce energy costs, promote smart energy consumption and protect the environment. And ultimately and most importantly, we want to deliver a grid to the people of Puerto Rico that is resilient to severe weather conditions in the future. As the leader in transmission and distribution, we look to our new partnership with Burns & McDonnell to rebuild our electrical infrastructure.”
The firm’s contract for program management services will include: project formulation and funding, project management, design management services, environmental and historic preservation services, construction management services, accounting services, procurement management services, program administration, and other business office functions.
The first priority for the Burns & McDonnell team, in collaboration with key stakeholders and advisers, is to create a portfolio of projects to be executed over the next 10 years. The plan includes projects to not only revitalize the power grid but also provide the level of modernization that is required to implement Puerto Rico’s new energy policy as set forth by the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and other regulations approved by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau. Other initial priorities will include strengthening the island’s transmission backbone, hardening or relocation of electric substations in flood areas, and strategic distribution underground.
The Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnership Authority (P3A) awarded Luma Energy the contract for operations and maintenance (O&M) for Puerto Rico’s transmission and distribution (T&D) system. As program manager, Burns & McDonnell will also coordinate with Luma to identify and prioritize projects that will lead to greater O&M efficiency.
A team of employee-owners from Burns & McDonnell, including several from Puerto Rico, were deployed to the island immediately after the hurricane to support grid restoration activities. Many of these employees will leverage knowledge gained about Puerto Rico’s power grid during the restoration work to also support various program management activities. Burns & McDonnell is also committed to investing in the community, with plans to hire local employees and engage local companies to support the multiyear project.
For the last year, Burns & McDonnell has also been collaborating with PREPA to provide training for its engineering group in the areas of grid modernization technologies and seismic design. This has helped to fill a knowledge gap that was created by the loss of nearly 40% of PREPA’s highly skilled operational workforce.
“The entire electric system of the island will be rebuilt with more reliable and resilient standards,” says Gabriel Hernandez, general manager, Burns & McDonnell Caribbean. “We are excited to bring our experience and leadership, while having new ideas for strengthening the grid.
“Hurricane Maria was a disaster no one wants to experience again. We know the island will likely be hit with another powerful storm sometime in the future. We want to make sure Puerto Rico is resilient when the next storm strikes.”
Engineering News-Record ranks Burns & McDonnell as both the No. 1 Power and Transmission and Distribution firm in the country. The firm completed $30 billion of capital spend in program management services in the past 10 years, implementing an integrated and phased approach. Across the United States, the firm is currently working on nearly 13,000 projects that touch the 16 critical infrastructure categories identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“Burns & McDonnell is honored to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s infrastructure,” says Mike Brown, president of Burns & McDonnell International. “We are passionately committed to this project, our clients and the people of Puerto Rico.”