Washington - The Puerto Rico Community Foundation will recommend in Congress tomorrow to promote solar cooperatives run by residents in the Puerto Rico energy transformation process.
Meanwhile, amid a political debate in Washington D.C. over disaster aid for Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association will warn that Congress still has to decide on funds to rebuild the island´s power grid.
Both organizations will present their recommendations before the House Committee on Natural Resources, that will hold a hearing on rebuilding and privatizing the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).
"Energy cooperatives will provide sustainable access to energy for low-income communities; help control the price of energy through low-cost nonprofit vehicles; and bring a renewed sense of empowerment and pride to Puerto Rican communities. These are key elements for self-development. Energy cooperatives represent a victory for all,” says Nelson Colón Tarrats, president of the Community Foundation, in his presentation before Congress.
Members of the Natural Resources Committee, including chairman Raúl Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, visited the Toro Negro solar community, in Ciales, during their visit to the island last March. After eight months without power, residents built solar microgrids and batteries with the help of organizations such as the Community Foundation, this way the community of Toro Negro achieved its energy independence.
El Nuevo Día had access to Colón Tarrats presentation, where he stresses that Toro Negro is the first solar community project in the history of Puerto Rico.
Colón Tarrats also describes how, along with other nonprofits, they helped to install solar panels and batteries in 37 emergency rooms in health community centers -more than half of those on the island- and that they are waiting for the approval of a proposal to provide such equipment to critical facilities, groups and businesses in Culebra.
Since the amended plan for the next $8.221 billion in
Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program proposes to use $436 million for facilities that provide communities with energy and water in a resilient fashion, the Community Foundation urged the congressional committee to ask the U.S. Department of Housing (HUD) and the government of Puerto Rico to transfer a substantial amount of those funds to projects run by communities.
For Colón Tarrats, “access to reliable and clean energy can be the difference between life and death." He also stressed that the lack of power was a factor that contributed to the nearly 3,000 hurricane-related deaths.
Rodrigo Masses, president of the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, will advocate in Congress for a transparent transformation in PREPA. "We firmly believe that, economic development will follow a transparent transformation process in PREPA,” says Masses in the presentation he sent to the Natural Resources Committee.
He also highlights the importance of the new regulatory framework in Senate Bill 1121, which Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares is about to sign; the increase in the budget of the Energy Bureau and building microgrids for communities and manufacturing companies.
However, Masses will also warn that Puerto Rico needs funds to rebuild its power grid.
According to government estimates, only a new transmission and distribution system requires $17 billion.
"So far, there is no funding source for that plan," Masses said and added that 90 percent of the funds that FEMA distributed for projects on the island have gone to U.S. contractors.