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PREPA has required legal provisions to enable ‘massive installation’ of photovoltaic systems

A new study commissioned by nonprofit organization CAMBIO has identified the existing regulatory and legal alternatives to move toward clean energy and the resilience of each home in Puerto Rico through the model proposed by Queremos Sol, which would provide access to solar panels without depending on the economic capacity of families.

“We are presenting a legal study that reiterates the viability of implementing the Queremos sol proposal,” said Ingrid M. Vila-Biaggi, president CAMBIO.

“The investigation confirms that there is no legal impediment for Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to move immediately to the installation of photovoltaic systems on residential roofs,” she said.

“The legal study confirms that PREPA already has administrative processes for the service agreement and constitution of legal easements that would allow the relationship between PREPA and the consumer to be established without major setbacks for the installation of these systems,” she said.

According to previous studies by CAMBIO, 100% of homes in Puerto Rico can be safer and lower energy costs if $9.6 billion of available federal funds are invested now — allocated for recovery by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to PREPA — to transform the electrical system into one based on renewable energy through photovoltaic systems on roofs of homes and businesses.

Studies show that, with these actions, the island can generate 75% of its energy in a clean and reliable way in 15 years, the nonprofit stated.

“Once again we show that we have the opportunity to establish an energy model that reduces the vulnerability of thousands of families in Puerto Rico. What is needed is the political will to promote it,” said Vila-Biaggi on the report called “Access and installation of photovoltaic panels on roofs, right of easements and real estate registry,” which CAMBIO commissioned to Erika Fontánez-Torres, professor at University of Puerto Rico Law School.

In a motion attached to the study, filed with the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau to respond to questions raised in a technical workshop on June 23, CAMBIO and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) pointed out the lack of participation by LUMA Energy and PREPA in the discussions on the procedures for the optimization of distributed energy and mini-grids that the regulatory body sponsored.

“It’s deeply concerning that, as far as we know, neither LUMA nor the government of Puerto Rico have advocated the use of FEMA funds for distributed renewable energy solutions,” they stated in the document. “We’re also concerned that neither LUMA nor PREPA participated substantially in the discussion of the alternatives for the acquisition of distributed energy during the technical workshop on June 23.”

Given their silence, CAMBIO and IEEFA asked the Bureau to order PREPA and LUMA to provide any communication they have had with FEMA regarding the potential use of federal funds to support decentralized renewable energy and storage resources.

In addition, both organizations that actively participate in the procedure stated that the discussion at the Energy Bureau on the adoption of distributed energy resources (DER) “seems to focus exclusively on market mechanisms that would disadvantage the population with fewer economic resources.”

“We emphasize that 44% of the population of Puerto Rico lives below poverty levels,” the document states. “Rate-based solutions, such as net metering, feed rates or demand response rates, still require owners to bear the initial cost of DER installation or have good credit to rent to third parties. Both options represent major obstacles for a large part of the residents of Puerto Rico,” said Cathy Kunkel, energy finance analyst at IEEFA.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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