Government may revamp hydroelectric plants under Promesa
SAN JUAN – Five of the island’s 20 hydroelectric plants are under evaluation to determine if they can be placed on a list of critical projects that can be developed under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act and financed through public-private partnerships.
The information was provided by Energy Public Policy Office Director Francisco Rullán during an energy roundtable at a forum sponsored by the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce.
Rullán said that his office wants to be able to make all 20 of the hydroelectric plants, which date back to the 19th century, operational if possible. For now, the focus is to renew and operate the ones at Dos Bocas, Caonillas 1 and 2, and Yauco 1 and 2.
He said that making those plants operational would add up to 150 megawatts of power to the island in renewable energy and possibly increase the amount of energy produced through renewables to 4%.
Right now, hydroelectric powerplants produce less than 0.08% of the island’s energy. One of the plants was recently transferred to the municipality of Comerío.
Rullán said fixing the hydroelectric plants will help solve the so-called intermittence or stability problem of using renewables. He was referring to the fact that renewables, such as solar energy, need batteries to store the energy so a system can continue to operate if there is no sunlight.
The Energy Public Policy Office official said the government administration not only wants to focus on producing solar energy, but also geothermal and wind energy.
“We are going to promote, through participatory public-private partnerships, the use of the 20 hydroelectric plants that yield clean energy,” he said.
On the other hand, Agustín Carbo, chairman of the Puerto Rico Energy Commission, said the entity has already held a preliminary hearing to start the process of evaluating the viability of the Aguirre Offshore GasPort, a natural gas project south of Puerto Rico.
He said the commission paralyzed the project and put a $15 million cap on its spending because of contradictory cost information provided by the Puerto RIco Electric Power Authority (Prepa). “We are not going to make the people pay for a project when we have different numbers,” he said.
Carbó, however, said the commission views the natural gas port as a temporary bridge to reduce energy costs as the utility prepares itself to increase the use of renewables.
“Gasification is important as a transition to renewable energy, but it is not a permanent option,” he said.
Because of Prepa’s reluctance to obey the law to increase renewables, the commission ordered the utility to fix problems it had with renewable energy contracts so it can start the process of integrating renewable energy to its grid.
Environmental Quality Board head Tania Vázquez said her agency has a new mentality, which is to promote development while at the same time protect natural resources. “Agencies have been told to reorganize themselves to work on critical projects, including renewable energy projects,” she said, referring to projects that will be evaluated by the revitalization coordinator under Promesa.
Also during the forum, Manuel Mata, head of AES Puerto Rico, which provides energy to Prepa at 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, said the island will eventually move to renewables, but that the technology was currently unreliable.