IEEFA update: ‘We Want Sun’ report outlines path forward on Puerto Rican electricity policy
Editor’s note: The following was written by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), whose stated mission is “to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.”
The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis published a report today in concert with a coalition of Puerto Rican public policy organizations, labor organizations and energy experts detailing the island’s largely untapped possibilities in solar-powered electricity generation.
It aims to influence the Puerto Rican legislature’s forthcoming energy policy bill.
“Transitioning toward a model of 100% renewable energy is possible under policies that emphasizes efficiency, conservation and demand management,” said Cathy Kunkel, an IEEFA energy analyst.. “Such policies will wisely promote the development of solar energy, particularly rooftop solar, while accelerating the elimination of high-cost fossil fuel-fired power plants.”
The report, published by way of a collaboration between environmental groups, labor interests and energy experts, proposes a system that is “accessible, efficient and equitable,” and that best addresses Puerto Rico’s need for affordable and reliable electricity generation, Kunkel said.
Contributors to the study are encouraging citizen participation in the island’s evolving power-generation policies and are advocating for a transparent shared governance model rooted in local ownership.
Agustín Irizarry Rivera, a co-author of the report and a professor of energy and electrical engineering at the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez said, “We propose a decentralized energy system in which individuals, communities, municipalities and cooperatives would have more active roles in ownership of electrical system assets.”
“A privatization structure that requires the purchase of a specified quantity of energy would crowd out the entry of renewable energy into the system,” said Irizarry, who is also a former vice president and consumer representative on PREPA’s governing board.
The report proposes meeting 50% of Puerto Rico’s electricity needs (sun, wind, wave and ocean thermal energy) by 2035 and 100% by 2050.
Core elements of the plan:
- Reforming the governance of PREPA to increase transparency and public participation in policy-making.
- Blocking the proposed privatization of PREPA;
- Eliminating partisan politics and corruption from the PREPA’s decision-making processes;
- Responsibly financing the transformation and removing the cost of PREPA’s legacy debt burden from electric rates, and
- Strengthening the role of the island’s independent regulator to ensure policy compliance.
- The plan has PREPA continuing to play an important role in the system but proposes a fundamental transformation of the utility’s business model. It calls for PREPA to modernize by promoting efficiency and conservation while better managing demand and facilitating the development and integration of distributed generation, especially solar.
PREPA would administer integration of distributed generation systems and microgrids, participate in the development of large-scale renewable energy and storage, ensure accessible and reliable electric service, and undertake the accelerated and orderly retirement of fossil fuel-based generation.
Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, president of UTIER (Union of Electric and Irrigation Industry Workers) said, “PREPA workers are ready to be part of a real transformation of the company under continued public ownership, one that permits us to contribute to the development of a new business model based on distributed renewable energy.”
Ingrid Vila Biaggi, president and co-founder of CAMBIO, a Puerto Rican public policy group, said, “Puerto Rico is faced with the opportunity to transform its electrical system, but also with the threat of a dangerous course of action centered on private fossil fuel contracts. For this reason, we want to open up spaces for public dialogue and education on a viable alternative centered on the welfare of all Puerto Ricans.”
Full report here: “We Want Sun” (English)
–IEEFA receives its funding from such organizations as the Rockefeller Family Fund, Energy Foundation, Mertz-Gilmore Foundation, Moxie Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Growald Family Fund, Flora Family Fund, Wallace Global Fund, and V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation.
–The views expressed in the Opinion section are the writer’s own and not necessarily those of Caribbean Business.