DOE, FEMA Release Puerto Rico Renewable Energy Study Progress Report

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have released a one-year progress report for the Puerto Rico Grid Resilience and Transition to 100% Renewable (PR100) Study.

PR100, which launched in February 2022 with funding from FEMA, is a two-year study designed to help inform infrastructure investments that will provide Puerto Rico with clean, reliable and affordable power. The study aims to generate community-driven pathways to meet Puerto Rico’s target of 100% renewable electricity by 2050 and improving the resilience of the power system against future extreme weather events.

“DOE is supporting Puerto Rico in executing grid improvements that will deliver a better energy system that boosts reliability and savings for its residents,” says U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “For far too long, Puerto Ricans have lived with an outdated and expensive electric system where needless obstacles and long delays have prevented critical improvements. We know that access to renewable energy can help save lives and I am proud of the DOE and FEMA teams that are working tirelessly to help put Puerto Rico on a path to a more resilient and reliable energy future.”

Since its launch, the PR100 team defined four potential scenarios through which Puerto Rico can meet its renewable energy targets. The team developed the scenarios following extensive engagement with diverse stakeholders, who expressed interest in studying different levels and applications of distributed energy resource deployment, such as rooftop solar and batteries. In the last six months, the project team performed initial modeling and analysis of the feasibility and tradeoffs of each scenario.

“FEMA’s investment in the PR100 study reiterates our shared commitment to building resilient infrastructure and creating clean energy solutions for Puerto Ricans that will have long-lasting benefits to communities and generations to come,” comments FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “Thanks to the partnership the Department of Energy has with FEMA, we were able to evaluate and help fund the development of clean energy alternatives for the reconstruction of the power grid to help Puerto Rico meet its renewable energy targets. This study is one of several strategies that FEMA is collaborating with Puerto Rico on to support the recovery of the energy grid through equitable, sustainable and resilient solutions.”

Preliminary findings of the first year of study research and stakeholder input shows renewable energy potential in Puerto Rico significantly exceeds total energy demand now and through 2050. In addition, distributed energy resources and alternative system configurations (e.g., community solar, agrovoltaics) could ensure Puerto Rico meets its renewable energy targets while preserving agricultural land and protected areas. Significant additional generation capacity is needed immediately to improve reliability.

Smaller renewable resources spread across the power system could recover faster from disruptive events than the current system, which consists of fewer and larger power plants. Prioritizing stakeholder input and interagency coordination is key to overcome past challenges.

As dozens of new energy recovery projects move towards construction, the PR100 study helps DOE leverage the world-class expertise and advanced modeling capabilities of its National Labs to ensure that funded energy recovery actions align with Puerto Rico energy policy and resilience needs, are coordinated across sectors, and align with industry best practices. Led by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the study connects local decisionmakers and communities with tools, training, and analytical support to enable planning and operation of the Commonwealth’s power grid with greater resilience against disruption as it moves toward its 100% renewable energy goal.

The two-year PR100 Study relies on extensive input to ensure that the project team is providing effective and relevant technical assistance. DOE has convened an advisory group of nearly 100 individuals from 60 organizations representing the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. In this way, PR100 will reflect and respond to a breadth of stakeholder perspectives and priorities and will support progress toward energy justice for all Puerto Ricans.

In October 2022, following devastating Hurricane Fiona, President Biden announced the Puerto Rico Grid Recovery and Modernization Team, led by Agustín Carbó, the former Chairman of the Puerto Rico Energy Commission (now the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau), to work across the federal and local governments to identify and overcome impediments to rapid infrastructure deployment. These efforts are an outgrowth of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in February 2022 by DOE, the Departments of Homeland Security, FEMA, HUD, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to enhance collaboration between the agencies. 

Beginning in 2023, Secretary Granholm will participate in a road tour of Puerto Rico to listen and learn about the issues impacting the island’s grid resilience and recovery from communities through personal engagements, townhalls, and listening sessions. During the events, DOE will seek to identify ways to address existing short-term hurdles that will help enable priority and urgent projects to break ground ahead of the next hurricane season.

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Author: Ariana Fine