Biden vows to drive ‘decisive progress’ to rebuild Puerto Rico’s energy grid
During his three-hour visit to Puerto Rico Monday, President Joe Biden vowed to “deploy and expedite more resources from the US Department of Energy and other federal agencies” to expedite work on modernizing the island’s power grid as part of an effort to make it more secure and resilient.
In his remarks at the Port of Ponce — which took place some 30 minutes after arriving to the Mercedita International Airport — Biden announced he has asked US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm “to lead a supercharged effort across the entire federal government to put in place the Puerto Rican Grid Recovery and Modernization Team,” to centralize federal resources and technical assistance to support the island in its efforts to repair the electrical grid.
She will “drive decisive progress on a game plan for Puerto Rico’s clean energy transformation,” he said.
Biden said the entire system will be modernized so “the Puerto Rican people can get the clean, reliable, and affordable power they need and the power stays in homes and hospitals when storms like Fiona strike.”
“That includes mini-grids, which we should begin to deploy soon so we are less dependent on transmission lines across long distances and more redundancy when storms hit,” he said during the speech he delivered quickly as the threat of a rain shower loomed.
Biden also announced more than $60 million in additional funding through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to shore up levees, fortify flood walls, and create a new flood warning system in Puerto Rico to help residents better prepare for future storms.
“This funding builds on our work to support Puerto Rico’s resilience like the $1.3 billion we allocated to the island to protect against future disasters. And the nearly $700 million in infrastructure investments since I signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” he said.
“We’re investing in Puerto Rico’s roads, bridges, public transit, ports, airports, water supply, and high-speed internet. We know that the climate crisis and more extreme weather will continue to hit the island. So, as we rebuild, we must ensure that what we build will last,” Biden said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi asked Biden to amend the Major Disaster Declaration approved after Hurricane Fiona hit Sept. 18 to provide an additional period of 180 days — from the current 30 — of 100% funding for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and direct federal assistance.
All 78 municipalities were included in the Major Disaster Declaration and more than 800,000 residents of Puerto Rico have registered with FEMA to claim individual assistance, Pierluisi said.