Puerto Rico Chooses Solar Over Gas in Grid Redesign

Island’s Integrated Resource Plan favors renewables over fossil fuels to provide affordability and grid resilience under extreme weather and climate change


Miranda Fox, Earthjustice

Last week, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau approved a long-term energy plan for the island’s sole electric utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) rejected the majority of PREPA’s planned gas buildout and directed the utility to invest in large amounts of solar and energy storage.

In the wake of devastating hurricanes in 2017, the Energy Bureau directed PREPA to find a way to make Puerto Rico’s electricity grid more affordable and hurricane-resilient. PREPA submitted a plan that defied the people of Puerto Rico’s demands for transformative change to protect their communities and avert climate catastrophe. PREPA timidly proposed a move from imported oil to imported gas, continuing decades of fossil fuel dependence, pollution, and high costs. It also ignored a new law that committed Puerto Rico to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

“Earthjustice and our clients, ten 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. 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,” said Laura Beatriz Arroyo, Earthjustice Staff Attorney.

Our clients will continue to push the Energy Bureau to further improve the IRP by rejecting all plans for new gas infrastructure on the island and challenging the privatization of the public utility.

“The Energy Bureau has allowed PREPA to consider using gas as a resource at Palo Seco, based on an assumption that PREPA could obtain gas from a nearby LNG Terminal, built by New Fortress Energy. We now know that LNG Terminal is unreliable, poses unacceptable safety risks to nearby communities, and was built illegally without the required Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval. We will ask Puerto Rico Energy Bureau to reject the idea outright on that basis,” said Raghu Murthy, Earthjustice Staff Attorney.

“Rooftop solar panel systems with storage systems and energy efficiency programs would be the best renewable energy option for Puerto Rico,” said Julia Mignucci, spokesperson for Mayagüezanos por la Salud y el Ambiente (Mayagüezanos for Health and the Environment). The IRP’s implementation currently allows renewable energy to be created through requests for proposals and energy purchase contracts. This implies that implementing renewable energy will remain in the hands of private companies, not PREPA. It also does not account for a just transition for PREPA’s workers. Earthjustice’s clients will push for PREPA to use tariffs, rates, and direct utility programs to encourage “prosumers” to install their own rooftop solar + storage systems.

Read more analysis on the Puerto Rico IRP by our legal team in this fact sheet.

The organizations in the Renewable Energy Now Alliance include: 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, Alianza Comunitaria Ambientalista del Sureste y Mayagüezanos por la Salud y el Ambiente.


A Puerto Rico Power Authority worker walks between downed power lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, Thursday, September 21, 2017.
A Puerto Rico Power Authority worker walks between downed power lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, Thursday, September 21, 2017. (Ricardo Arduengo / AFP via Getty Images)

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