The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has released a draft version of its 2019 integration resource plan (IRP), laying out the future development and continued recovery of Puerto Rico’s electric grid over the next 20 years.
Although the complete version will not be released until Feb. 12, the plan outlined in the draft has dramatic highs and lows for clean energy and environmental advocates, according to the Sierra Club. Notably, it contains plans for by far the largest build-out of solar and battery storage in the U.S., as well as plans to build three new liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals.
“During Hurricane Maria, hundreds of people died simply because they couldn’t keep their insulin refrigerated or their oxygen machines running,” says 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,” she continues. “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.”
According to the Sierra Club, the updated energy plan includes over 2,220 MW of solar energy and 1,080 MW of energy storage. This would be an unprecedented investment in battery storage; according to Bloomberg NEF, the entire U.S. grid currently includes 1,031 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.
The plan, however, also includes three additional LNG import facilities. The Sierra Club de Puerto Rico also continues to resist the privatization of PREPA, and 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,” says Jeremy Fisher, senior strategy and technical advisor at the 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.”