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November 23, 2022

Biden Asks for $3 Billion in Rooftop Solar Panels and Battery Storage for Puerto Rico

Groups call for an additional multi-billion funding commitment for all Puerto Ricans on the archipelago

Contacts

Robert Valencia, Public Affairs and Communications strategist for Latino Engagement and Outreach, rvalencia@earthjustice.org

Washington, D.C. and San Juan, Puerto Rico

Last week, President Joe Biden asked Congress to earmark $3 billion to the Department of Energy to finance rooftop solar and storage systems for Puerto Rico’s low-income communities and residents with health conditions. The request would be part of a larger omnibus package.

In addition, the Biden administration proposes an extra $35 million for the Department’s initiatives to provide technical assistance to local agencies and communities. While we applaud the administration’s steps to help Puerto Rico overhaul its energy grid, we urge the president and Congress to direct additional billions of dollars to allow a full transition of the grid to distributed solar and storage. The experts that wrote the Queremos Sol report have shown this is the most affordable and resilient path forward.

After President Biden’s announcement, Earthjustice and its partners, which include Puerto Rico-based civil society groups, issued the following statement:

“President Biden’s request to Congress to earmark disaster recovery funds for rooftop solar and storage in Puerto Rico is a step in the right direction. He should also require FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to utilize the already allocated historic amount of funds for distributed renewables so that all low- and medium-income residents in Puerto Rico can access the life-saving resiliency that rooftop solar and storage can provide,” Ruth Santiago, Earthjustice board member and White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council member, said.

“For too long, the people of Puerto Rico have been deprived of a reliable, resilient, and sustainable energy utility. Reports that President Biden will request $3 billion in a disaster supplemental for rooftop solar plus storage for low-income households and households with people with disabilities in Puerto Rico are welcomed,” said Laura M. Esquivel, Hispanic Federation vice president for federal policy. “However, that request falls far short of the $5 billion requested by 38 members of Congress for that purpose. Much more is needed. Creating a resilient, decentralized energy system in Puerto Rico is not just about reaching climate goals — it is literally a matter of life and death. The Biden administration must also ensure that all federal funds allocated to Puerto Rico’s energy grid — including the largest grant in FEMA history — are used to achieve the island’s legislatively mandated renewable goals — and not be used to invest in continued reliance on polluting fossil fuels.”

“The President went to Puerto Rico to understand the situation on the ground, and he saw right away that a clean, decentralized grid is the only way forward. I am glad that Puerto Ricans delivered that message so effectively, and that the message got through. Three billion dollars is a great start, along with the $500 million that Puerto Rico's Department of Housing has committed to rooftop solar and battery storage, but Puerto Ricans deserve more,” said Raghu Murthy, deputy managing attorney for the Clean Energy program at Earthjustice.

“I want to recognize the monumental, tireless work of local groups like Queremos Sol and AERA to get the federal government moving in the right direction with respect to energy transformation. The people of Puerto Rico urgently need an electrical system with distributed renewable energy through rooftop solar and storage, and said system should be a public one responding to the protection of energy as a human right. Puerto Rico needs more and now is the moment,” said Laura Arroyo, senior attorney at Earthjustice.

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