October 31, 2017 / 6:25 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Puerto Rico calls on U.S. utilities to help restore power

(Adds background on storm, comment from APPA, other utilities working in Puerto Rico)

Oct 31 (Reuters) - Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) executive director Ricardo Ramos sent a letter to utility industry trade groups requesting assistance for power restoration crews, a Puerto Rico government official said on Tuesday.

This is the first time PREPA has requested help from U.S. mainland utilities, known as mutual assistance, since Hurricane Maria knocked out power to the entire island almost six weeks ago. Only about 30 percent of the homes and businesses in the U.S. territory have had their electricity restored.

PREPA sent the mutual aid request to the American Public Power Association (APPA), an industry group for public power companies, according to Christian Sobrino, Puerto Rico’s government liaison to the territory’s federal oversight board. The letter was also sent to the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an industry group for investor owned utilities, a spokeswoman at APPA said.

Both APPA and EEI organize mutual assistance from their utility members to help restore power after storms and other events.

“We are working with our government partners to respond expeditiously,” APPA spokeswoman Meena Dayak said on Tuesday, noting the group was planning to release a statement with more details later this afternoon.

Several utilities from Florida and New York have already been working in Puerto Rico to restore power, including the New York Power Authority, JEA from Jacksonville, Florida, and the Kissimmee Utility Authority of Kissimmee, Florida.

JEA and Kissimmee were subcontractors with Whitefish Energy, which lost its $300 million contract to rebuild PREPA’s grid on Sunday. JEA has said it plans to keep its crews in Puerto Rico.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino, Nick Brown and Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay

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