December 7, 2018 Read More →

Battle brews over short-term energy investment plans in Puerto Rico

Greentech Media:

The number of jurisdictions pursuing a goal of 100 percent renewables keeps growing. Puerto Rico looks to be next, with a late November plan from the island’s governor and a proposal before the legislature both calling for 100 percent renewables by 2050. In October, a diverse group of clean energy advocates also published a proposal, “Queremos Sol,” that outlines a path to all-renewables by the same year.

Agreement on the territory’s energy system seems to have coalesced around a renewable portfolio standard and timeline. “I can’t think of any entity that’s said it’s opposed to 100 percent renewables by 2050. That certainly is progress,” said Cathy Kunkel, an energy analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), which contributed to the Queremos Sol report. “That’s a consensus that didn’t exist before the hurricane.”

It’s taken months to get to this point. And while the long-term vision seems to have been clarified, stakeholders remain divided on short-term goals. “What the problem is, and what we need to be careful about, is how different organizations and groups propose to get there,” said Ruth Santiago, a lawyer at local environmental group Comité Diálogo Ambiental and a contributor to the Queremos Sol report.

In its August fiscal plan, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) said it was looking to convert some plants to burn natural gas and that it would cost $500 million to build a liquefied natural gas import terminal. When the utility’s current CEO, José Ortiz, came aboard, he said natural gas would support a future with more renewables. PREPA did not respond to requests for comment about the proposed RPS, but in its fiscal plan the utility lays out a path to a generation mix in 2023 that’s 32 percent solar and wind and 41 percent gas.

The group of engineers, environmentalists and clean energy advocates who wrote the Queremos Sol proposal are pushing for integration of renewables now. Santiago said investing in natural gas in the short term might be “disastrous” and will likely impede investment in solar.

“Renewable energy and storage technologies are available now,” said Kunkel. “And if your goal is to get to 100 percent renewables by 2050, you should start investing in them now. The most important challenges are going to be what investment decisions get made in the next few years. Most of Puerto Rico’s power plants are old and [need] to be replaced in any event. What they get replaced with really matters in terms of what type of fuel infrastructure you’re locking yourself into for the next several decades,” she added.

More: Inside Puerto Rico’s quest for 100% renewables: A clash over natural gas

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