Puerto Rico's New Solar Energy Plan, Designed in Tandem With Earthjustice, Is Next-Level

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Sep. 16 2020, Updated 4:59 p.m. ET

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An electric utility crew works on a line more than three months after Hurricane Maria cut it. Essential services remain at a fraction of their pre-storm capacities throughout the island.

The ongoing climate crisis and the resulting tropical hurricanes tend to result in long-term power outages, so it comes as no surprise that many islands are starting to seek out alternative energy sources. Puerto Rico, for example, is currently redesigning its energy plan alongside environmental non-profit Earthjustice to invest in large amounts of solar energy and energy storage, to make for a better and brighter future (literally).

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“Earthjustice and our clients, 10 local groups that make up the Renewable Energy Now Alliance, developed a compelling vision of what a clean, affordable, and hurricane-resilient grid looks like in Puerto Rico and challenged PREPA’s plan," said Laura Beatriz Arroyo of Earthjustice. 

"The revisions made by the Energy Bureau, released in the IRP last week, reflect many of our demands. The Energy Bureau recognized our clients’ contribution to the process and took extensive community input into account.” 

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Puerto Rico Energy Bureau finally approved a long-term solar energy plan after suffering through Hurricane Maria aftermath.

At the end of August 2020, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau made all of our wildest sustainability wishes come true, by approving a long-term energy plan for the island’s only electric utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), according to Earthjustice. They rejected a massive gas buildout, and instead, made a commitment to invest in solar and energy storage, a plan which had been in the works for quite a while.

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After the deadly Category 5 storm in 2017, Hurricane Maria, the Energy Bureau started urging PREPA to make electricity more affordable and durable in the eye of the storm. PREPA had previously suggested transitioning from imported oil to gas, which would perpetuate the island's use of non-renewable fuels and costly energy, while ignoring the island's renewable energy goal for 2050. It would also rely on an LNG terminal built by New Fortress Energy, which would bring harm to local communities and was built illegally.

However, Earthjustice, CAMBIO PR, Sierra Club Puerto Rico, Comité Diálogo Ambiental, Earthjustice, El Puente-ELAC, Campamento contra las cenizas en Peñuelas, Amigos del Río Guaynabo, Coalición de Organizaciones Anti-Incineración, Comité Yabucoeño Pro-Calidad de Vida, and Alianza Comunitaria Ambientalista del Sureste y Mayagüezanos por la Salud y el Ambiente combined forces to devise a well-thought-out plan which will help them stay on track.

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The plan mandates 3,500 megawatts of solar energy by 2025.

In 2019, according to Green Tech Media, PREPA proposed a plan that would include 1,800 megawatts of solar PV and 920 megawatts of energy storage in the next five years, in addition to eight "minigrids" that would basically supply the island with power if there was some sort of electric disruption (aka another massive storm). However, the new Puerto Rico Energy Bureau plan goes above and beyond that. 

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The new plan mandates much higher amounts of renewables, including upwards of 3,500 megawatts of solar energy and over 1,300 megawatts of storage by 2025. The minigrid system plan would cost $5.9 billion and it was ultimately rejected, however, the island is planning to create a new system that increases the ability to supply the island with energy in times of need, and for a lower cost. As previously mentioned, plans for gas additions are also on hold.

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Source: iStock

Puerto Rico is definitely making waves with their new energy plan, and we seriously can't wait to see it in action.

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