$12 Billion Funding in Puerto Rico’s Power System Should Not Replicate Present Harms

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$12 Billion Funding in Puerto Rico’s Power System Should Not Replicate Present Harms

by Ruth Santiago
|March 7, 2022

Photo voltaic panels on a retailer in Carguas, Puerto Rico. Investing in distributed rooftop photo voltaic may save lives and enhance Puerto Rico’s local weather resilience. Picture: Walmart

In September 2020, the Federal Emergency Administration Company (FEMA) allotted $9.6 billion for electrical system work in Puerto Rico. Moreover, extra federal funds have been dedicated, bringing the full to roughly $12 billion. This represents the biggest allocation of FEMA funds within the company’s historical past.

Contemplating the immense and historic quantity of funds concerned, the federal authorities not too long ago launched the PR100 research to design a pathway towards assembly Puerto Rico’s goal of 100% renewable electrical energy by 2050. The initiative marshals a formidable battery of sources; at least six nationwide labs and a number of federal companies, a steering committee, and dozens of electrical system stakeholders are collaborating within the two-year research.

This unprecedented funding of funds and sources represents a novel alternative to repair the Puerto Rico electrical system and promote lifesaving, dependable, and resilient electrical service to the residents of Puerto Rico. It have to be invested in methods that don’t repeat errors of the previous.

potential pit falls

Quite a few vitality scandals in Puerto Rico reveal that when giant sums of cash are up for grabs, unethical enterprise offers observe, evidenced by the controversial electrical system contracts to doubtful firms like Whitefish and Cobra Power within the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

As well as, allocations of catastrophe funds have traditionally discriminated towards poor, Black, Brown, and different communities of colour.

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Since at the very least 2005, the US Congress realized that the centralized vitality supply system in Puerto Rico is very weak, which solely results in a vicious and costly cycle of destruction and reconstruction. In reality, the PR 100 initiative is in response to the devastation in 2017 wrought by Hurricane Maria on the storm-prone poles, towers, wires, substations, and different elements of the prevailing centralized electrical transmission and distribution methods that join giant fossil-fired energy vegetation.

With out cautious consideration, FEMA’s fund expenditure might be analogous to a clean examine that might perpetuate Puerto Rico’s twentieth century centralized grid, relatively than leapfrog the archipelago into the twenty first century.

This historic allocation of federal funds mustn’t perpetuate the centralized or fossil fuel-dependent vitality system that deepens societal vulnerability and environmental and local weather injustices in Puerto Rico. As a substitute, distributed rooftop photo voltaic and battery vitality storage methods have to be prioritized.

A bumpy begin

To date, the initiative will not be off to an incredible begin. Through the launch of the PR100 initiative, many individuals and advisory committee members expressed assist for options comparable to distributed renewable vitality, rooftop photo voltaic, and battery vitality storage methods. But, as of now, FEMA appears to have began approving initiatives to rebuild the centralized vitality supply system, supporting the unstainable establishment of destruction and reconstruction, whereas conserving Puerto Ricans in a state of perpetual vulnerability.

Sadly, FEMA has not responded to Puerto Rico civil society requests for entry to details about the electrical system initiatives it’s reportedly approving.

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FEMA should change its business-as-usual practices to advertise the transformation of Puerto Rico’s relationships with vitality and energy technology. The funding of FEMA funds into rooftop photo voltaic and storage has the potential to advertise long-term advantages within the Puerto Rico economic system by reducing its dependence on fossil fuels and related infrastructure. This pivot would even be excellent news for US taxpayers, as a result of funds would now not be wasted on a dead-end system that largely advantages the businesses who get the reconstruction contracts whereas conserving tens of millions of lives in Jeopardy.

Ruth Santiago is an alumna of Columbia Regulation College and is a practising lawyer. She co-authored it together with the next authorized and engineering specialists: Fernando Abruña of FAIA, Adi G. Martínez-Román of UPR Resiliency Regulation Heart, Marcel J. Castro Sitiriche of Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez, Edil Sepúlveda Carlo of Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora, Cecilio Ortiz García of the College of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and Agustín Irizarry Rivera of the Universidad de Puerto Rico-Mayaguez.

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