La Fortaleza withdrew the bill that jeopardized the autonomy of the Energy Commission. This should serve as a motivation for public powers to be aware of the importance of strengthening, rather than undermining, the regulation body related to the ambitious energy privatization agenda.
The measure contemplated a reorganization plan to bring together under a new agency the regulatory boards of Public Service and Telecommunications, the Public Service Commission, Puerto Rico´s Energy Commission, the Energy Administration and the Independent Office for Consumer Protection.
Rejection to the bill came after objections posed by experts in different disciplines and members of the Legislative Branch. It is particularly distressing that the loss of autonomy may alter the regulatory and oversight mission that the Commission did with the commitment required for the construction of the new Puerto Rico.
Created in 2014, the entity managed to get the Electric Power Authority to adopt its first Integrated Resources Plan, with long-term projects and goals that include the difficult task of providing services at the lowest possible cost. It also made the first rate review of that public company in 27 years, achieving a reduction of 21 percent in the provisional rate, last August.
In response to hurricane María, the entity is working on an emergency regulatory framework for microgrids, one of the alternative power generation models contemplated by the government. These private companies evaluation and certification guides must provide investors with the certainty required for a feasible energy model, far from today´s unsustainability.
There is no doubt that the independent management of a regulatory body benefits the free competition market that the government and the Oversight Board are considering as partners in the power grid. It inspires confidence among consumers that it will watch over their interests without political or economic influence . Certainty that the private sector will responsibly assume its role as energy generator or administrator of the transmission and distribution infrastructure, is also crucial.
Therefore, the Commission must be strengthened in order to exercise –without restrictions- regulation on necessary infrastructure improvements and the opening to competition and modernization with renewable energy sources. All this, with the goal of achieving a cost-efficient system that translates into reasonable rates for families, businesses and industries.
At the same time, the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute is another essential entity which autonomy must not be discussed. It makes no sense to place the institute under the umbrella of the Economic Development and Trade Department, as proposed by another public reorganization plan also withdrawn by La Fortaleza. A group of federal representatives warned about how weakening the Institute autonomy would lacerate the collaborative relationship between Puerto Rico and the federal government. They are right.
We also highlight that impartial and accurate information is a leading factor in the Puerto Rican responsibility to recover the lost credibility before Congress, the White House and the stock market. Precisely, lacerated confidence is the cause of the strict conditions imposed to the disbursement of emergency funds for the island. Lets not forget the importance of statistics in the projections included in programmatic routes.
Puerto Rico wins with entities that guarantee transparency and accountability in public management. The Institute to provide reliable statistics that support decision making. And the Energy Commission to build the institutional framework that opens the way for energy renewal.
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