I am fuming over another ridiculously high water bill this month. For the past year, we have been battling broken water lines and our water bill has increased 20x from what it was this time last year. About two months ago, I installed a brand new water main (dug a trench 100’s of feet and used schedule 80 PVC), tested the meter and had the water company come out and check their lines. All is well on the water front, right? Wrong.
I got a new bill yesterday. It was another giant one that got me to go off on a tangent to Summer about how expensive it was and then a neighbor about how expensive the utilities are in Puerto Rico and how ridiculous it is to deal with the companies when there is a problem. I’ve vented about the Internet down here on the blog a number of times, but I haven’t really gotten into the water company or power company. I think this is a big enough subject that I am going to break down the topics to one per blog post.
Electric Bills in PR
Today, I am going to bitch about PREPA. PREPA stands for Puerto Rico Elecric Power Authority. They provide 100% of the power to the island. The electric bills at our house range between $350 and $500 per month. We run the usual utilities like a washer, dryer, refrigerator and hot water heater. We don’t have air conditioning in the entire house (just our offices and they are energy efficient DAIKIN split inverter ac units) but we do have ceiling fans. We also have computers, monitors, speakers, stereos and printers on in our offices. With that said, all our screens/monitors are energy efficient LCD screens and our hot water heater is propane ($65-$90 per 6ft tank) and our electronics use is no more than an average household these days (phone charging, laptops etc).
Rinconians Thoughts on Power Costs
Conversations that I have had with other home owners and business owners regarding power bills here always turn ugly. It is rare that people don’t walk away angry at the power company and dismiss it because there is nothing we can do about it. If you want to live in Puerto Rico, you have to deal with the way Puerto Rico treats its tax paying citizens and how Puerto Rican companies treat their customers. It becomes a Puerto Ricanism. Love it or leave it. From what I have been told by both Americans and Puerto Ricans alike is that he rule of thumb here is, if your last name sounds Puerto Rican, you won’t get hassled but if your last name is American, you’re going to see an increase in your bills. I don’t want to believe that, but stranger things have happened.
I started doing research for this blog post and discovered a few interesting articles that back up the hearsay about our power bills;Puerto Rico power is more expensive per kilowatt-hour than anywhere in the United States. For example, we pay 29¢ a kilowatt-hour (kWh) in Puerto Rico. That is almost three times the U.S. average of 9.9¢. On top of that, if you are a business here with the utilities in the name of the business, you will pay even more for electricity, about 4¢-5¢ per kilowatt-hour (kWh) more. That’s right! Pay employees (payroll tax, hacienda taxes, social security, unemployment, workmen’s comp etc) who in turn spend their money in town on groceries, gas and entertainment and you will also have to pay more for your power. Like a company uses their power for evil? I think that is ridiculous and doesn’t seem like it should be legal.
Why do we pay so much for power?
I have a hard time believing that a country that has a national average income of $16,300 can afford to pay such high power bills. I have heard a few rumors about why this is true. One is that the government and the San Juan tourist hotels owe the power company over $300 million dollars. Apparently the debtors, are only making the minimum payments required by law to keep their power running. This kind of financial loss for PREPA could absolutely spill over and out of the consumers pocket. Another theory is that there is such massive abuse of the power companies inability to perform all the duties required of them, people are getting away with stealing electricity all over the island. Now, it might sound like a risky endeavor, but to all customers that have the old dial meters, it’s as easy as buying a high powered magnet an sticking it onto your meter. The dial, which spins to calculate the amount of power going into your house is made of metal, so the magnet will slow the spin down, thus showing less power used on the meter than was actually used. The strength of the magnet will dictate how much power you can steal.
There is a little more validity behind this theory as to why the power in Puerto Rico is so expensive. It id due to our dependance on oil to produce electricity. Coal is not readily available here like on the mainland in the United States so our power costs go up and down with the crude prices. Also, for doing such a slack job and being so unorganized, PREPA sure does have a lot of employees! On a megawatts served basis, PREPA (Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority) has more employees, offices, supervisors and administrators than any power company in the United States. Really? What are they all doing?
Apparently, they are sabotaging operations and generating plants! That’s right. Union employees were dragging their feet on projects and the blue collar union members became pawns for the political jousting their leaders were engaging in. Collective bargaining by the government with the Union to start generating power from Natural Gas to lower our reliance on costly oil was broken off by the union in the form of a strike. After the strike, a third party (Georgia Power Co.) was brought into assess the Power issues in Puerto Rico. They concluded that union members destroyed power lines, knocked down transmission towers and were sabotaging the generating plants. Ultimately, many unions members were fired and some were even convicted of the crimes they committed. Ultimately, over 400 of the union members that were fired were re-hired.
So there you have it. My rant on the ridiculously high electricity costs in Puerto Rico. These are just a few theories of why the electric bills in Puerto Rico are so expensive and I can’t really say any of them are facts. Even the Union is evil information I got was from a article that was politically motivated, so who knows how much of it is fact vs fabricated.
What type of experience have you had with the electric company in Puerto Rico? Did it take you months to get power? Did you have to bribe someone? Are your bills not that expensive or are they ridiculously high? I would love to hear everyone else’s experiences with the utilities here! Comment below!