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Major Federal Spending Bill Provides Energy Expertise to Puerto Rico

A major proposal pending before Congress to provide $1.1 trillion in government funding is proceeding in conjunction with a smaller U.S. Senate initiative to require the U.S. Interior Department to lend assistance to Puerto Rico, the other territories, and the freely associated states reduce reliance on foreign fuel and improve energy efficiency and infrastructure.

Under the Senate initiative, the Interior Department would provide technical, policy, and financial experts to develop and implement plans to address the islands’ energy needs.  There are four components to the energy action plan: (1) recommendations to reduce reliance and expenditures on fuel shipped from ports outside the United States, develop and utilize domestic fuel energy sources, and improve performance of energy infrastructure and overall energy efficiency; (2) a schedule for implementation of such recommendations and identification and prioritization of specific projects; (3) a financial and engineering plan for implementing and sustaining projects; and (4) benchmarks for measuring progress toward implementation.

A team of experts would submit progress reports annually to the Secretary of the Interior and Congress.

The legislation represents the first time that the U.S. Congress has gotten involved in Puerto Rico’s electricity problems.  As previously noted in the Report, the cost of energy is extremely high in Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory uses oil that must be shipped in for more than two-thirds of its energy production. It also uses coal that must be shipped. There have been plans to transition electric plants from oil to less-costly gas or tap its sun, wind, and other local energy resources, but little progress has been made.  Puerto Rico’ Electric Power Authority (PREPA) is also facing a substantial debt.

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