|In 1893 the
first private lighting system was installed by José Ramón Figueroa,
of Villalba. Since then, up until the inauguration of the Carite #1
Hydroelectric Plant in 1915, all electric power in Puerto Rico was
produced and distributed by private companies established in the
Island's most important urban centers.
That same year, public lighting was inaugurated in our capital city
with the installation of eight lamp posts and 600 incandescent lamps
to celebrate a royal visit to the Island. The Electric Light
Anonymous Society continued to offer this service in San Juan for
The Mayagüez municipality was second, installing 116 arc lamps for
public lighting purposes.
Three small 120 volts generators were the first to be linked to a
hydraulic turbine to produce electricity in Puerto Rico. These were
installed in 1987 by Casellas and Co. in the town of Utuado, to
provide illumination services to the public plaza and some
residences in the town center.
In 1908 the South Coast Irrigation Service was created by law. It
was called upon to develop the systems to provide this region with
the water needed to maximize its farming potential.
We owe this small agency the development of government electric
power service, which emerged as a by-product of the irrigation
The Carite #1 Hydroelectric Plant was constructed by the South Coast
Irrigation Service to make use of the water head from the Carite
Lake to the irrigation channels. This was the first hydroelectric
plant owned and operated by the government. In this way the
production and distribution of electric power with the purpose of
promoting social wealth instead of profit began in Puerto Rico.
The Carite Lake was the first of a series of artificial lakes
developed as part of an irrigation system for the southern part of
The success on the operation of the Carite Hydro System motivated
the construction of the Carite #2 Hydroelectric Plant in 1922.
The development of government owned electric power systems required
the creation of a new government agency. This new agency would be in
charge of managing the irrigation systems and of operating and
expanding the electric power systems. In 1926 an agency named
Utilización de las Fuentes Fluviales (Water Resources Use) was
In 1929 Utilización placed into service the Toro Negro #1
Hydroelectric Plant with three 1,440 kilowatt generators. In 1937 a
4,320KW generator was added. In this same year the Toro Negro #2
Hydroelectric Plant was placed in service with 1,920KW.
The construction of power
plants required the development of a 38,000 watt lines network to
distribute the electric power produced. When the Toro Negro project
started, construction of a line from Villalba to Aguadilla, with
branches stretching to Arecibo, began. Others were built from Ponce
to Yauco, San Germán, Maricao and Mayagüez, and from Carite to Cayey,
Comerío and Monacillos.
The year 1937 marked the beginning of a new era in the development
of government electric power services in Puerto Rico. It was then
that the government started to incorporate the private power
services to its system with the purchase of the Ponce Electric
Company. The latter owned a steam plant in Ponce that served the
city. It became the government's first Thermoelectric Plant.
In 1941 Utilización finished construction of hydroelectric plants
Garzas #1 and #2. By this time, it had finished the construction of
Garzas Lake, between Adjuntas and Peñuelas, and was building Dos
Bocas, between Utuado and Arecibo.
Utilización was able to accelerate the construction of electric
power facilities with funds obtained from the Puerto Rico
Reconstruction Administration. This agency was created in 1935 to
reduce unemployment and develop an economic rebuilding program on
the Island. Up until 1941, the Puerto Rico Reconstruction
Administration had invested $230 million in Puerto Rico.
In 1942 the Dos Bocas Hydroelectric Central began to provide
services from Arecibo to Utuado.
Water Resources Authority
increase in demand for electric power propelled the creation of a
new government agency, independent from the Department of the
Interior. It should have sufficient freedom and flexibility to
provide the necessary financing to expand the generation system and
the electric lines. Thus emerged the first public corporation in
Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority (PRWRA),
created by virtue of Law #83 of May 2, 1941.
In 1945, at the end of the war, the PRWRA purchased the Puerto Rico
Railway Light and Power Company and the Mayagüez Light Power and Ice
Company. This was possible by using part of the profits of the first
public bonds issued by the Corporation, under the visionary
direction of Don Antonio Lucchetti, the founder of this public
corporation. In this way, the two main electric systems operating on
the island were integrated into one company.
The Sea Power was a floating central of 30,000 watts, acquired in
1946 to solve the problem of a deficiency in generation created as a
result of the increasing demand for electric power. At that time, it
was evident that the exploitation of our hydroelectric resources had
reached its maximum capacity. The Sea Power was installed from the
Puerto Nuevo pier to the, until then, Monacillos sub-station,
through one of the first 115,000 watt lines built.
In 1946 began the construction of the Monacillos tower. This
facility was originally used as the offices of the system operators,
and it also had a 30,000 watt sub-station. Over time these
installations have become the nerve center of our electric system.
From here, and through a sophisticated computerized system, the
production, as well as the distribution of electric power in the
entire Island, is monitored and controlled.
Midway through the 1940's, only 12% of our rural population had
electric power. To correct the situation, the Authority began in
1946-47 a vigorous rural electrification program with funds assigned
by the Legislature and from the own agency.
Starting in 1952, the Authority signed a contract with the Rural
Electrification Administration of the United States to obtain a loan
that would allow it to continue providing electric power to the
countryside. A fundamental element to accelerate the construction of
electric power lines in rural areas was the use of helicopters, an
innovative idea we owe to Engineer Julio Oms.
In 1950, the San Juan Thermoelectric Plant was inaugurated. It
marked the beginning of large scale electric power production in
Puerto Rico with the use of petroleum.
During this decade,
the Palo Seco Thermoelectric Plant in Cataño and the one at Costa
Sur in Guayanilla were also built.
These big centrals were built to satisfy Puerto Rico's increasing
demand as a result of the industrialization program, which also
brought about the expansion of commerce and urban centers.
In 1963, the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly approved a law that
transferred and integrated the Vieques electric system to PRWRA.
Also in 1963, the PRWRA installed a 13,000 watt cable, approximately
10 miles long, to interconnect the electric systems of Vieques and
the Big Island of Puerto Rico.
In 1964 the PRWRA carried out the first experiments to diversify the
Island's power sources, with the creation in Rincón of the first
experimental Nuclear Central in Latin América, the Central Bonus.
During the 70's the PRWRA went through the last expansion stage of
its power generation system. In 1974, the Aguirre Thermoelectric
Plant was inaugurated. Later, the Combined Cycle Plant was
constructed. At that time, petroleum and its derivatives were the
power source responsible for 98% of the electricity used on the
island, while water represented a mere 2%.
Electric Power Authority
On May 30, 1979, by
virtue of Law #57, the Puerto Rico Water Resources Authority changed
its name to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. The change was
due to new circumstances, because water or fuentes fluviales no
longer were the principal source of electricity on the Island.
In 1981 PREPA acquired the electric system owned by the Municipality
of Cayey. In this way came about the completion of the consolidation
of all electric systems in Puerto Rico under one sole entity.