November 20, 2017 Read More →

Puerto Rico’s Blackout Offers a Chance to Build Something Better

CBC Radio:

Puerto Rico might be primed for an even larger shift away from oil and gas entirely.

PREPA currently spends $1 billion on imported fuel, according to Fast Company, and until 2012, petroleum was required for up to 75 per cent of all electricity generated on the island. As a result, electricity costs for island residents are higher than in the continental U.S.

Renewables, by contrast, have become much cheaper over the last decade.

“The build-out of renewable energy in Puerto Rico would keep more money on the island and could be an important tool in helping to revitalize the economy,” says Cathy Kunkel, a consultant for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, in an interview with Fast Company.

Hawaii faces the same challenges that Puerto Rico does, and has put forward a proposal to transition to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2045, though they haven’t perfected their system yet.

“It’s a really different way of doing things from a central power station … but they’re solving those problems,” says Martinez.

One criticism of the micro-grid system in Puerto Rico is whether it makes sense logistically to use micro-grids as a means of restoring power across the island. Peter Fox-Penner, the director of Institute for Sustainable Energy at Boston University, wrote in an op-ed for Salon that the fastest way to return power to most of the island will likely be through restoring the original grid first.

He argues that it’s too expensive and complicated to attempt to shift the way the grid is structured at this stage in the recovery effort.

“The only logical way for Puerto Rico … to [develop] a series of resilient and clean micro-grids is to first get the entire grid functioning and then to create sections that can separate themselves and operate independently when trouble hits,” wrote Fox-Penner.

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