It’s been three months since Hurricane Maria changed everything in Puerto Rico. FEMA has declared it’s transitioning from disaster response to recovery, but humanitarian issues continue to mount. The territorial government has vastly undercounted deaths from the storm and its aftermath, with the true tally likely topping 1,000. The threat of disease looms, exacerbated by the island’s crumbling health infrastructure. Puerto Rico is drowning in millions of cubic yards of trash, and facing combined housing, tax, and credit problems. The island is losing waves of people to the mainland. And above all, the longest and most devastating blackout in American history is still affecting a third or more of all Puerto Ricans, perhaps even as many as half. For many, darkness has become a new way of life.
If, as The Washington Post recently reported, Army Corps of Engineers estimates that full power won’t be restored until May are correct, it will mean that at least some of the island will have been without power for seven months. But there are few signs indicating that even that conservative estimate—revised downward multiple times and conflicting with Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s recent prediction of a completion date of February 2018—will likely come to pass. To complicate matters, a battle for control over the grid, politics, and the future of Puerto Rico’s energy profile has consumed the recovery process, and its resolution will probably dictate the energy future of Puerto Rico.