Mary Williams Walsh reports on How Free Electricity Helped Dig $9 Billion Hole in Puerto Rico
In fact, the power authority has been giving free power to all 78 of Puerto Rico’s municipalities, to many of its government-owned enterprises, even to some for-profit businesses — although not to its citizens. It has done so for decades, even as it has sunk deeper and deeper in debt, borrowing billions just to stay afloat.
Now, however, the island’s government is running out of cash, facing a total debt of $72 billion and already defaulting on some bonds — and an effort is underway to limit the free electricity, which is estimated to cost the power authority hundreds of millions of dollars.
But like many financial arrangements on the island, the free electricity is so tightly woven into the fabric of society that unwinding it would have vast ramifications and, some say, only worsen the plight of the people who live here.
And now for the “no sh*t, Sherlock” moment:
“If the towns don’t get free energy, they’re going to have to pay for it by increasing their property taxes or something, so the people will end up paying,” said Eduardo Bhatia, the president of the Puerto Rico Senate.
The prior governor had started a solar power project that is actually working. The current administration stopped any further solar projects.
“Free” electricity: Decades’ worth of government handouts, waste, inefficiency, overspending, and kicking the can down the road.