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    DOE Secretary breaks down priorities for improving Puerto Rico's power grid

    June 9, 2023 - CE Noticias Financieras


      U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm outlined in a letter to House Natural Resources Committee Democratic Minority Leader Raúl Grijalva the key issues and priorities for improving Puerto Rico's electrical infrastructure.

      The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is preparing to implement a program in Puerto Rico aimed at improving the resilience of the island's most vulnerable residents. This initiative, authorized and appropriated $1 billion through the FY 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, seeks to address challenges in the energy sector and promote an equitable and sustainable energy grid for the citizens of Puerto Rico.

      In response to suggestions raised by Rep. Grijalva, in a letter, Granholm reported that DOE has taken significant steps to align the program with the considerations raised.

      For his part, Rep. Grijalva noted in his letter that residential solar energy and storage systems play a vital role during natural disasters when Puerto Rico's electrical grid fails. These systems allow residents to keep their lights on, power essential medical equipment, and prevent food and medicine from spoiling. However, he emphasized that this technology remains unaffordable for many low-income households on the island.

      Rep. Grijalva urged Secretary Granholm to consider solar energy and storage for individual homes, distribution of funds, prioritization of low-income persons with disabilities, inclusive outreach, among others.

      According to Secretary Granholm the program contemplates a number of key aspects, in response to the considerations raised by Representative Grijalva. These include solar energy and storage for individual homes. The Secretary said DOE is gathering information on the size, costs and ownership of solar and rooftop storage assets, with the goal of narrowing the scope of the program.

      He also said that priority will be given to low-income people with disabilities. In addition, he said, a roundtable discussion was held with the disability community to understand their unique energy needs and ensure that the program adequately addresses them.

      "Ways are being sought to reduce barriers to participation in the program and work is underway with the National Council on Disabilities to ensure inclusive access to related materials and events," Granholm said in her letter.

      Granholm explained that the program seeks to rapidly deploy funds, addressing long-term operations and maintenance considerations, and leveraging tax incentives, with the goal of generating positive economic impact. "Financial award structures that promote local participation in project implementation are being explored," she expounded.

      The secretary mentioned that DOE seeks to grant financial and technical assistance to community and nonprofit organizations to develop a portfolio of community-led energy resilience projects. In addition, she stated that she has participated in community engagement events and roundtables in Puerto Rico to hear directly from the community and ensure that investments are made in the best long-term interest of island residents.

      She said governance mechanisms, reporting obligations, and performance measures will be implemented to ensure responsible implementation and oversight of the program.

      The DOE secretary maintained that the agency works in conjunction with the Office of Inspector General to ensure transparency and accountability.

      In February, the Office of Grid Deployment issued a Request for Information (RFI) in English and Spanish, seeking guidance on establishing the Puerto Rico Energy Grid Resiliency Fund (PR-ERF) in relation to allocated funds. In addition, webinars were organized in both languages to explain the objectives of the RFI and the response process.


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