November 14, 2018 Read More →

A shift in Puerto Rico to natural gas would hinder renewable-energy potential

PV Magazine:

The Puerto Rico utility’s favored generation plan, in a report prepared by Siemens, involves an LNG terminal at San Juan and would achieve only 55% renewables by 2038. A scenario without LNG would reach 79% renewables by 2038 at comparable cost, based on undisclosed cost assumptions.

A scenario in which renewables would contribute 53-57% of Puerto Rico’s electricity by 2038 “has a high likelihood of materializing,” states a draft analysis prepared by Siemens for Puerto Rico’s electric utility PREPA.  In that scenario, a land-based liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal would be constructed at San Juan; Siemens builds LNG infrastructure.  

In another PREPA scenario without LNG, renewables would provide 79% of Puerto Rico’s electricity by 2038: 77% from solar and 2% from wind power, with 1900 MW of battery storage.  This higher-renewables scenario is projected to cost 2.6% more than PREPA’s favored scenario in 2025, and to cost less in 2038.

The cost assumptions are not disclosed in PREPA’s draft analysis, which was published by the government energy agency.  The analysis is a “black box,” without the cost assumptions used for solar, storage, LNG infrastructure, or fossil fuels.  Nor does it discuss why wind power maxes out at 2%, or why solar power is not added until 2022.  The addition of solar in 2022 across the scenarios permits the economic retirement of six fossil units.

For comparison, Hawaii’s least-cost energy path, as found in an independent study, would attain 46% renewables by 2021, and 58-84% renewables by 2030—saving customers $3-7 billion in the process.  Hawaii, like Puerto Rico, relies for much of its electricity on fossil fuel imported across an ocean.

Just last month, the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Mayors, and other groups advanced a goal of 50 percent renewable electricity for Puerto Rico by 2035, and 100% by 2050.  While the 50% target would be exceeded by 2038 in PREPA’s favored plan, both PREPA’s higher-renewables scenario at comparable cost, and the independent study of Hawaii’s grid, suggest that more renewables, faster, could save customers money as solar and storage costs continue to decline.

Energy analyst Cathy Kunkel, noting that PREPA’s analysis points to relatively high renewables, contends that the Puerto Rico Senate should “change its energy bill to support, not hinder, this goal,” in a post published by utility think tank IEEFA.  

Puerto Rico utility favors LNG over solar in Siemens plan

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