May 7, 2018 Read More →

Top Republican Plans to Use Fossil Fuels to Make Puerto Rico ‘the Energy Hub of the Entire Caribbean’

The Intercept:

In the context of a long-running push to privatize the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, the most recent plan for which would see different pieces of the utility’s transmission, distribution, and generation capacity auctioned off to private bidders. He’ll meet with the utility — which is some $9 billion in debt — on Friday.

The natural resources committee Bishop chairs has jurisdiction over Puerto Rico’s federally appointed Fiscal Oversight Board, and he and González-Colón spent much of the press conference expressing their shared frustration with the board and the need for more oversight over the body. Last month, in a scathing letter, he criticized board members for not taking a stronger hand with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has said he will refuse to weaken labor protections or the island’s pension system, as the panel has demanded. At the press conference, Bishop committed to holding an oversight hearing some time later this spring or over the summer. And while the board, Rosselló, and Bishop have all traded barbs, they all agree that PREPA should be privatized.

Instead, said Cathy Kunkel, an energy analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, or IEEFA, PREPA could transition to renewables.

“There is no technical reason why PREPA couldn’t transition its system off of oil and achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 or 2050, as Hawaii is planning to do,” she said. She recently authored an IEEFA study outlining why privatizing PREPA would be a poor means of modernizing it, and told me that the utility currently spends around $1 billion a year on imported fuel, down from before the 2014 oil crash. PREPA generates just 2 percent of its power from renewables.

“PREPA has historically failed to prioritize renewable energy. Puerto Rico needs to develop more renewable energy resources, including both utility-scale and distributed resources, in order to reduce its dependence on imports,” Kunkel said.

If Bishop’s vision becomes a reality, he and his allies on the island could drive Puerto Rico in the polar opposite direction, encouraging companies to import fuel to the island only to export it back out to other Caribbean nations, dependent — like most island energy systems—on oil and gas shipped in from elsewhere, with profits funneled almost entirely to multinational fossil fuel corporations.

“Everything we’re facing is related not to Maria, but to PREPA’s lack of capacity to respond to hurricanes, which is not new to Puerto Rico,” Massol said last fall. “We have seen this before, and we have to prepare for the future.”

Top Republican Plans to Use Fossil Fuels to Make Puerto Rico ‘The Energy Hub of the Entire Caribbean’

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