The Grid Deployment Office (GDO) of the U.S. Department of Energy has launched the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund (PR-ERF) to improve energy infrastructure in Puerto Rico and support the Island’s goal of transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
The GDO is now accepting public comments on how to allocate the $1 billion in U.S. funding to be managed through the PR-ERF.
In a related announcement, the U.S. Department of Energy stated that it is especially interested in “information from Puerto Rican stakeholders about both short- and long-term energy solutions including residential rooftop solar deployment, community and critical service energy resilience, partnerships with non-profit organizations, and workforce training to sustain Puerto Rico’s clean energy economy.”
The announcement further explained that “the development of the PR-ERF will heavily rely on local collaboration and will align with community priorities for improving energy resiliency in Puerto Rico.”
Comments on the new initiative may be sent via email to PuertoRicoGDO@hq.doe.gov by 5:00 p.m. EST on April 21, 2023.
The Department of Energy is fast-tracking the project and hopes to have funding allocated by the end of the year.
Energy in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico has had issues with energy production and deployment for years. Not only has electrical power been uncertain and fragile, but it also is more expensive for householders and businesses than in any state except Hawaii.
Hurricane Maria in September 2017 brought the problem to a head, with many people on the Island going without electricity for weeks or months. In January 2018, nearly half of the residents continued to be without power. This number excluded homes and businesses that were too damaged to be able to use electricity.
In the years since then, Puerto Rico has made little progress in hardening the electrical grid on the Island. Blackouts continued to be frequent and long-lasting.
Particularly given the high proportion of elderly and disabled individuals on the Island, the lack of stable electricity has been a serious public health problem.
Puerto Rico is determined to transition to renewable energy. However, in 2022, renewable energy sources provided just 3% of the energy used. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that Puerto Rico uses 70% more energy than it produces, and nearly all the electricity is currently produced with fossil fuels that must be shipped in.
During Hurricane Fiona’s landfall and aftermath, however, it was found that rooftop solar installations were able to keep electricity flowing better than the gas-powered electricity sources. Recent studies have also shown that Puerto Rico — with 200+ days of sunshine each year — is well able to support solar energy to meet the needs of the population.
“For far too long, Puerto Ricans have endured an unreliable and expensive electric system with frequent blackouts due to catastrophic weather events and aging infrastructure,” said Agustín F. Carbó, Director of the Puerto Rico Grid Modernization and Recovery Team. “This historic investment will be transformative for many Puerto Rican families, keeping the lights on through power outages, providing peace of mind during hurricane season, and saving them more money and reducing high electric bills with these clean energy solutions.”
photo by By JSquish