Puerto Rico has the first draft to build a public energy policy, in the newly filed bill, product of a multisectoral effort with the advice of experts, under Larry Seilhamer leadership.
It is a good sign that the bill underlines the transition towards renewable energy and energy conservation, without affecting the island´s productivity. Opening towards microgrids and energy cooperatives, as mechanisms of efficiency to avoid the total collapse of the system in cases of emergencies, are consistent with the resilience path that Puerto Rico has to draw.
It is also important to strengthen the body responsible for regulating the transformation of the system through privatization and facing the federal assistance for recovery. The discussion on the bill will enrich it.
It is time for the island to have clear goals for the energy evolution that will drive development for the next 50 years. The vision that emerges from the legislative process will frame the sale and hiring of companies to optimize and operate generating plants, as well as distribution and transmission systems.
Such vision takes on a new dimension after the dramatic experience suffered by Puerto Ricans last year, when months without electricity even caused deaths. If before it was necessary, now, the power grid transformation is an obligation. And it has a double track in terms of vital issues such as climate change. The electrical infrastructure has to be resistant and must provide alternatives to overcome atmospheric challenges. It has to mitigate them through the use of new technologies based on renewable resources.
The government's goal is that all electricity on the island should come from renewable sources within 30 years. It might seem an ambitious goal considering that today only 2 percent of local energy is produced with these sources. However, the low percentage denotes a series of deficiencies that the new energy policy seeks to address. The first is the high politicization that undermined a corporation that was an example of modernity.
In order to free the system from partisanship, the bill proposes that the members of the Electric Power Authority Governing Board should be appointed by the governor, from a list of candidates proposed by organizations with expertise in energy issues.
Now that the bill was introduced its time for a comprehensive and deep consideration that includes the best proposals to nurture it from all sectors of society. Both in the preparation of the policy that will rule the coming decades as well as in its application through projects that will democratize energy production, the scope of the transformation will be determined by broad participation.
So far, Víctor Parés – chairman of the Commission that will evaluate the
bill –, warned that he will not call public hearings beyond a day devoted to hearings in August. In the process, there were about 40 comments and recommendations submitted. Parés anticipated the ratification of the November 8 bill, the last day of bill approvals in the Legislative Assembly. Although having an energy policy is a high priority for economic and social development, such expressions raise questions about the rigor and transparency of the evaluation.
We agree with the legislative intention for the island to have a robust, resilient, reliable, accessible and affordable power grid. Especially when, by December 31, PREPA must have a regulation to concession the entire system to a private company in the next two years.
Our power grid has to become a platform for sustainable development that mitigates, resists and adapts to climate challenges. All sectors, public and private, have to work together to make the island a center of innovation and investment, with a clear, comprehensive and measurable vision.
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