A large fire at an electrical substation for Puerto Rico’s new electricity supplier, Luma Energy, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of the island’s residents on Thursday. At the height of the blackout, nearly 800,000 customers were left without power, according to Luma. At midnight, approximately 60,000 customers were still in the dark.

“The fire caused major blackouts across the island. The situation is under assessment and work is underway to restore the system,” LUMA Energy tweeted. The fire and blackout weren’t the only crises Luma faced on Thursday. That same day, the company announced that its customer portal and mobile app were victims of a cyberattack that disrupted customers’ access to its online services.

The DDoS attack, or distributed denial-of-service attack, generated 2 million visits per second to the customer portal and mobile app, affecting the ability of many customers to access account information, according to Luma.

The company said in a statement that it “regrets that its customers have experienced the inconvenience the attack may have caused and looks forward to continuing to provide them with an exceptional customer service experience.” Luma has only been in his new role as the island’s energy authority for 10 days. The island’s former energy provider, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, had its own notorious struggles with blackouts, bankruptcies, and overall mismanagement in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Officials had warned residents to be patient in the early days of the transition, as Luma inherited a fragile electrical infrastructure. But even before Thursday’s blackout, more than 1 million customers were left without power this month alone, not counting those affected by the substation fire, according to The Associated Press.

Puerto Rico Governor Calls for Investigation

The fire broke out in a transformer at the Monacillo de Luma substation in San Juan, according to the company.Police and fire services rushed to the scene.No injuries have been reported. In a message shared on social media, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi referred to the incident as an “explosion.” Pierluisi said state and federal law enforcement authorities are investigating. He added that “whoever is responsible will have to answer the People of Puerto Rico.” FBI authorities in San Juan said they are “evaluating” the power outage and encouraged people with information to come forward.

The blackout comes as the island is still working to vaccinate its residents against the coronavirus.Vaccines must be kept at low temperatures to remain viable. The island’s health secretary, Carlos Mellado Lopez, said in a tweet that hospital services remain uninterrupted, and that vaccines remain safe.”Our suppliers have generators, and we have more than 70 support centers to keep them safe,” he wrote.

Analyzing the Incident

Undoubtedly, the consequences have been of an important impact for multiple recipients. The damage assessment is still continuing and will depend on the reports that are received and the investigation that has been requested by the authorities of Puerto Rico and will take several days for the investigators to collect all the information of the effects of the first and second order, in addition to their causes.

  • It happened overnight.
  • 800,000 customers were left without electricity.
  • 60,000 remained without power for a prolonged period.
  • A fire broke out at the Power Substation, with no human injuries.
  • Users were unable to access their account information.

Clearly the cyber-attack on the company’s website does not seem to have been the cause of the blackout, but they could have been coordinated and planned as in the case of Ukraine. The cause of the power blackouts was clearly caused by a malfunction in the operation of the substation, which ended up causing equipment damage. But what caused the fire!

Many Questions

  • Why did the sub-station protection systems not act? (Cyber-Active)
  • Were there no alarms in the sub-station control system?
  • Were there operators on site? Was it monitored remotely?
  • Were there surveillance cameras?
  • Was it intentional or casual?
  • What could the lending company have done to reduce the effects of the incident?
  • What could the regulator have done to reduce the impact on the population?
  • What caused the fire at the electric power substation?
  • Could it have been avoided? How?
  • What does this incident of Puerto Rico’s interconnected electrical system tell us?

Source: External Link Luma Energy Official Site: External Link

About the author: Eduardo Kando WiseGroup Manager