Wanda Vázquez. (GFR Media)

Governor Wanda Vázquez asked the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau last night to review the approval of a charge for energy efficiency, which will represent an increase in electric bills as of Nov. 1.

She also urged the oversight entity to explore "other alternatives" in order to implement energy efficiency programs that do not involve rate increases.

Governor Vázquez said she “strongly” rejects that the implementation of energy efficiency, provided for in Laws 57 of 2014 and 17 of 2019, represents a rate increase for Electric Energy Authority (PREPA) customers. “That cannot be the first option," she said in written statements after a meeting with the president of the Bureau Edison Avilés in La Fortaleza.

She also asked to look for "independent sources of income”  such as “collaborative agreements or the possibility of access to federal funds, so that responsibility for energy efficiency “is not at the expense of the people." 

Vázquez said she recognizes the independence of the Bureau, so she cannot order to cancel the new charge. However, she added that she will be watching that the find a solution considering "the best interests of the people.” 

Upon leaving the meeting, Avilés indicated that the Bureau will meet today to "discuss the governor's concerns," which were echoed by lawmakers and citizens.

"We will discuss these concerns and reach a determination, whatever that is - respecting our independence. We´ll evaluate whether we continue with what the resolution determines or with something else. No matter how independent we are, we have to be aware of the concerns and we have to respond to them," he said, after noting that the Senate could, for example, postpone the implementation of the charge.

If the Bureau does not reverse its decision, as of November 1, PREPA customers will see the "Rider" or Energy Efficiency Adjustment Clause (EE Rider) in their bill, which will mean an increase of between $0.64 and $1.79 monthly, depending on consumption. This new charge will last until June 30, 2020, and the Bureau's goal is to collect $13 million.

Earlier yesterday, PREPA Executive Director José Ortiz said the charge "is an order" by the Bureau and not an initiative of the public corporation. "The Bureau ordered us to recover $13 million to promote energy efficiency in Puerto Rico," he said, pointing out that the Bureau's "educational campaign" would focus on how to improve energy efficiency in homes, businesses, and industries.

However, Aviles denied that the money will be used for a campaign and explained, instead, that it will go to a special fund for the implementation of programs by a third party, and to evaluate and measure the effectiveness of these programs and any related studies.

Senator Miguel Romero files legislation

On the other hand, Senator Miguel Romero filed yesterday a bill to reject the energy efficiency charge.

Senate Bill 1427 also states that the30 percent energy efficiency goal for 2040, established by law, cannot be achieved through mechanisms that involve rate increases.

"It is inconceivable to think that an educational campaign, which is an advertising campaign, can be used to justify that the Authority's customers have to pay $13 million. Neither Law 57 nor Law 17, which are the ones that set an energy efficiency goal, authorize an increase in electricity bills to pay for these efforts," Romero said.

He said the Senate will approve his bill today so that the House can "see it immediately."

He added they want to ensure the people to have the certainty “that there will be no increases to fund campaigns. Resources should be used to strengthen the energy infrastructure. It is hurtful and offensive to propose things like this when we are still suffering the grid's instability," he said.

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