Private sector analyzes Puerto Rico’s energy modernization
The modernization of Puerto Rico’s power generation infrastructure’s economic impact and its expected transition to renewable energy sources, as well as an examination of municipal projects were the main topics for discussion at a business forum organized by the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce (CofC).
“Puerto Rico faces numerous energy challenges: a transition to renewable energy sources, fragile electrical infrastructure, a public electric utility still in bankruptcy and the highest energy rates in the entire United States,” said CofC President Cameron McKenzie.
“Each of these challenges represents an obstacle to our competitiveness and our economic development. However, if we address these issues correctly, they can become opportunities to increase our economic resilience,” he added.
Agustín Carbó-Lugo, director of Modernization and Recovery of the Puerto Rico Energy Grid for the U.S. Department of Energy, headed the forum’s plenary session, and gave attendees an update on the status of projects led by the federal entity, aimed at promoting the reconstruction of the electricity grid to make it more resistant and capable of transmitting clean energy.
“According to our study of PR100, the potential to use renewable resources significantly exceeds both current and projected energy demand for 2050,” he said.
Francisco Berríos Portela, deputy secretary of the interior for Energy Affairs; Lillian Mateo Santos, associate commissioner of the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau; and Economist Gustavo Velez, founder of Economic Intelligence Inc. also participated as speakers.
Likewise, a group of municipal executives, headed by Villalba Mayor Luis Javier Hernández-Ortiz, were also on hand to offer details of a set of municipal projects that are aimed at achieving energy competitiveness for the benefit of companies and residents.
Some of the topics that were part of the agenda included a report on the state of Puerto Rico’s energy situation; the necessary changes in the Integrated Resource Plan; best practices to reduce energy consumption; and private sector initiatives to take control of its energy supply, increasing resilience and lowering the cost of electricity.
McKenzie stressed the importance of publicly addressing the energy issue, not only because of the federal government’s increased involvement, but also considering the Government of Puerto Rico’s recent announcement granting by the of a new 10-year contract, under the modality of public-private partnership, to Genera PR, an independent subsidiary of the company New Fortress Energy.
The company will oversee the operation and maintenance of the electricity generation infrastructure belonging to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).
McKenzie pointed out that according to the Energy Information Administration, Puerto Rico consumes nearly 70 times more energy than it produces annually, while per capita consumption on the island reaches about one-third of the average consumption seen in the states.
The dependence on oil as fuel for electricity generation contributes, according to data from the federal agency to Puerto Rico having an average price of electricity rates higher than that of the states, except for Hawaii.
For the period from July 2021 to June 2022, 43% of Puerto Rico’s electricity was generated by natural gas plants, 37% of electricity came from oil, while coal generated 17%, and renewable sources only produced 3%.
“It’s up to the private sector to work together with the government to urgently rebuild our energy infrastructure, maximizing resilience to natural disasters; incorporating the highest generation technology, while maintaining competitive costs for the commercial and residential sectors,” McKenzie said.
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