“During Hurricane Maria hundreds of people died simply because they couldn’t keep their insulin refrigerated, or their oxygen machines running,” said Adriana Gonzales, Environmental Justice organizer for Sierra Club de Puerto Rico. “We need the solar and storage in this plan so we can protect health and safety through the next hurricane with distributed, reliable energy infrastructure. I’m also proud to see my island taking the lead in addressing the climate crisis. Puerto Rico, a small island burdened by punitive debt obligations, could soon be leading the U.S. in adoption of new solar technology. Perhaps we are more motivated to act because we have already experienced the violent, destructive impacts of runaway climate change. I hope that Puerto Rico’s example will help other states find a pathway toward sustainability and resilience in the face of climate change and a demand for cleaner and lower-cost energy options.”
The multimillion-member group pointed out that even before Puerto Rico’s electrical grid was devastated by Hurricane Maria, Prepa was reliant on “expensive and dirty bunker oil and coal-fueled power stations to generate electricity, creating significant air and land pollution,” and some of the highest electricity costs in the country.
The updated energy plan includes more than 2220 megawatts (MW) of solar energy and 1080 MW of energy storage, which the organization lauded, but at the same time decried the plan to continue using fossil fuel, as well as the public utility’s privatization, writing:
“This would be an unprecedented investment in battery storage; according to Bloomberg NEF, the entire U.S. grid currently only includes 1031 MW of storage. Puerto Rico’s plan also includes the phase out of the use of coal and bunker oil to generate electricity on the island, great news for public health and clean air.
“The plan, however, also includes three additional LNG import facilities. Advocates on the island are pushing back on PREPA’s desire to build new gas facilities at all, instead urging the utility to avoid the climate-disrupting energy source and transition directly to clean energy. Sierra Club de Puerto Rico also continues to resist the privatization of PREPA, which is the people of Puerto Rico’s greatest public resource. The draft energy plan includes the assumption that PREPA will be privatized.”
“This update to the Integrated Resource Plan is a step forward for Puerto Rico,” said Jeremy Fisher, senior strategy and technical advisor at Sierra Club. “This new focus on deploying solar energy on the island is long-overdue, and the planned investments in energy storage technology will make Puerto Rico’s energy system more resilient to disruptions. Getting new solar and storage deployed quickly should also allow PREPA and its customers to move away from high cost imported fossil fuels, reduce toxic emissions, and reduce costs for families and businesses. I hope the utility is able to move forward quickly on cost-effectively implementing these solar and storage plans, and looks to minimize new investments in fossil fuel plants and imports. Puerto Rico has a unique opportunity to transition away from oil and coal, and accelerate towards a clean energy future for the benefit of ratepayers, public health, and the environment.”