National Harbor, Maryland - Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares promoted yesterday Puerto Rico as an investment market, and announced that his government has launched a process to create a public-private partnership that will develop energy storage plants on the island.
Physically far from the internal struggle going on in New Progressive Party (PNP) government over the repeal of the Unjust Dismissal Act (Law 80), Rosselló Nevares said, during his address to the Select USA investment summit, that Puerto Rico offers certain tax incentives "that you can´t find anywhere else".
He also mentioned the labor and permit reforms he has promoted.
Then, he gave a press conference to announce the launch of a business qualification process to develop 10 energy storage plants that, before a potential emergency, natural disaster or blackout, could facilitate the power grid recovery.
"We are on the way to transforming the Puerto Rican power grid, and this project goes hand in hand with our vision of making it more resilient," said Rosselló Nevares, in referring to the law he recently signed to allow the privatization of PREPA´s assets.
The business qualification process is launched after Tesla submitted an unsolicited proposal to build regional plants, estimated to cost $ 3.8 million, and that could support existing plants, ideally through renewable energy.
"We are inviting companies with expertise and knowledge to submit proposals," said Omar Marrero, executive director of the Public-Private Partnerships Authority, and also head of the Central Recovery and Reconstruction Office (CRRO). Companies can submit their proposals until August 17.
According to Manuel Laboy, Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce, modernizing the power grid will give a "fundamental shift" to the island´s economic situation.
The government of Puerto Rico has presented a reconstruction plan that reaches
$ 94,4 billion, which includes $ 17,6 billion to modernize and create a power grid that can better withstand natural disasters, such as Hurricane Maria.
Given the US President Donald Trump´s argument, that Rosselló wanted to "take advantage" of the hurricane to rebuild an already failing and bankrupt power grid, the governor stressed that, since before the cyclone, he was committed to transform PREPA.
"The system –as it was- was not a good business for Puerto Rico or the US," Rosselló Nevares said, citing the example of the US Virgin Islands, that in the last years suffered hard blows due to hurricanes, and they restored the old system with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds (FEMA) each time, instead of rebuilding it.
Rosselló Nevares also said that he would not be defending Puerto Ricans if he did not promote the use of the situation left by the hurricane to accelerate PREPA improvements.
Tesla´s proposal - electric vehicle manufacturer that also sells batteries to combine them with solar systems -, seeks that the complete Puerto Rican power grid have those reserve plants. The benefits are estimated at $ 12.5 million.
Regarding the US Department of Energy report, which includes initiatives to improve the grid, the governor commented: "We welcome proposals recognizing that they are recommendations ... that have the advantage of their national laboratories ... but public policy and how the future power grid will look like will be designed by the elected government of Puerto Rico".
However, the federal government, that carries the weight of the allocations to rebuild the grid, will want to have influence over the process, according to sources in Washington D.C.
The Select USA investment summit - held in Maryland National Harbor and where the government of Puerto Rico made 50 business appointments - kept the governor physically away during the last hours in which the effort requested by the Board to repeal Law 80 would have been buried. Law 80 allows workers to claim compensation in case of unjust dismissal.
After Rosselló Nevares accused Senate President, Thomas Rivera Schatz, of curbing the measure using "tricks of the past," Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín said that the PNP leadership in the Senate denied "a vote of trust" to the governor.
Yesterday, Rivera Schatz accussed Rosselló Nevares "of not governing with courage," and Rivera Marín not to think that he "instills fear". But the governor said he does not change "a point or a comma" on his criticism to the Senate leader.
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