Puerto Rico fiscal board asked to remove obstacles to power generation
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association (PRMA) and the Institute of Competitiveness and Economic Sustainability (ICES) urged the Financial Oversight & Management Board on Tuesday to, together with the Puerto Rico Energy Commission (PREC) and the private sector to put in place a regulatory framework that eliminates obstacles in order to drive energy-generation and -distribution projects that are currently available.
Tomás Torres, ICES’s executive director, said that if obstacles such as the 3-cent transition charge, which are currently held up in court, and the 1 cent the PREC imposed as subsidy for any photovoltaic system installed were eliminated, businesses, industry and homes could immediately invest in distributed power grid projects that would help provide electricity to communities quickly.
“We ask that the barriers that now exist of overcharging for distributed energy, whether for panels or highly efficient generation plants, be eliminated,” Torres said. “And there must be basic, simple streamline regulations to enable us to quickly connect to the system.”
Both Torres and PRMA President Rodrigo Masses said the association will present that regulatory emergency plan and called on the fiscal entity created by the federal law Promesa and other federal entities for the urgent implementation of a massive aid plan aimed at the reestablishment of basic services.
Hurricane María is expected to impact the island directly as a Category 4 or 5 storm. Its entry through the southeast of the island will impact not only energy distribution but generation as well because it is where the four main plants, Eco-Eléctrica, Costa Sur, Aguirre and AES are located, as well as the main lines and other generation plants.
“We could have a mix of the blackout of Sept. 16, 2016, as a transmission and distribution effect as well as being weeks and months without power,” Torres said.
“So we call on the federal government and the fiscal board to implement a massive aid plan aimed at restoring basic services while implementing an emergency plan of regulatory infrastructure that is privately finances distributed energy to alleviate dependence on a highly vulnerable power grid,” he said.
In a statement ahead of María’s arrival, the board simply said it will use its powers under Title V of Promesa to accelerate reconstruction projects.
Meanwhile, Masses said Crowley Maritime Corp. and Tote Maritime will receive more than 2,500 shipping containers with food and other items between Saturday and Monday, and thus Puerto Rico should not lack supplies. The companies, in conjunction with the PRMA have already discussed with the Treasury Department that the tax process be carried out manually for the island to get the supplies without incident.
Masses explained that, in collaboration with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, negotiations are underway for the Stevens amendment, which eliminates air cabotage provisions, to be extended to Puerto Rico amid its emergency. The U.S. government has temporarily exempted the island from the Jones Act, but only to ship fuel in.
The PRMA requested that, during the emergency period, the government relax its limits to inventory, for which tax is collected, without impacting municipalities so businesses can have high inventories during critical periods.