Earthjustice Statement on Puerto Rico’s Failing Non-Renewable Energies in the Wake of Secretary of Energy’s Visit to the Archipelago

Billions of unspent federal FEMA funds have been allocated for recovery and climate resiliency that could be devoted to rooftop systems


Robert Valencia,

On her second visit to Puerto Rico this week, Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm made positive remarks about the importance of widespread distributed renewable energy that ensures life-saving resiliency to Puerto Rico residents. While her visit to the archipelago raises the hopes of millions of residents there, both the federal government and Puerto Rico’s Energy Bureau have done little to guarantee a transition from a fossil fuel-dependent electrical grid towards a publicly funded, weather-resilient, zero-emission system using distributed rooftop solar and storage. Billions of unspent federal FEMA funds have been allocated for recovery and climate resiliency that could be devoted to rooftop systems.

Ruth Santiago, Earthjustice board of trustees member and White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council member, released the following statement: 

“According to reports this week, the death toll from Hurricane Fiona is higher than previously estimated, owing to unrecorded energy-related deaths. While people are dying as a result of a lack of a reliable and resilient energy grid, the government continues to rely on expensive and polluting fossil fuels, like those imported by New Fortress Energy (NFE), a company with a history of contract noncompliance. New Fortress’ San Juan’s LNG terminal, which was built and operated without authorization, has failed to deliver on its contract to bring a reliable fuel source to Puerto Rico, further complicating electricity generation for the grid. Furthermore, private generators like EcoElectrica and AES are not able to operate at full capacity, demonstrating that a centralized energy grid based on fossil fuel generation is not the solution to Puerto Rico’s energy crisis.

“EcoElectrica’s gas storage tanks were damaged by seismic activity, which is far more frequent than originally predicted when EcoElectrica built its LNG import terminal and gas-fired power plant. In mid-October, AES reported that its coal plant operations were reduced by 50% due to a “problem with coal injection to the plant,” which points to the vulnerability fossil-fuel plants pose.

“Because these problems are the result of fossil generation, the solution is not and cannot be more fossil generation tied to a centralized system. Instead of continuing to pursue this broken system, the government of Puerto Rico should be rapidly transitioning to renewable and resilient rooftop energy and safe storage, as proposed by Queremos Sol. As Secretary Granholm has already said after visiting Puerto Rico and inspecting the grid, the solution is rooftop solar and storage. Puerto Rico agencies and decision makers like Vivienda, PREB President Edison Avilés-Deliz, and even PREPA have recognized the resiliency and reliability benefits of rooftop solar and storage over centralized fossil generation.

“Finally, a recent report by the United Nations Environmental Program revealed that climate adaptation has fallen short, as budgets allocated from developed to emerging countries are “5-10 times below estimated needs.” Consequently, rooftop solar and storage are crucial to battling climate change while adapting in the face of stronger storms, and Puerto Rican communities like Adjuntas have proven this point. Now is the time that FEMA fund rooftop solar and storage in Puerto Rico.”

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