A report released by Queremos Sol, a coalition of nonprofits, based on data from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority concluded that, with new distributed generation technology such as rooftop renewables, and increased energy efficiency, Puerto Rico could save millions of dollars.
Instead, the utility has proposed investing over the next 20 years in maintaining a large-scale generation system highly dependent on fossil fuels, the coalition said.
The study, “A Distributed Energy Resource Roadmap for Puerto Rico: Phase I,” evaluated the capacity of distributed energy resources and energy efficiency to avoid investments in centralized systems.
The report finds that investments in efficiency and renewable distributed energy resources, could eliminate the need for the proposed construction of a 302-megawatt natural gas combined cycle unit.
The author of the report, Ronny Sandoval, an expert in modernizing and transforming electrical systems and president of ROS Energy Strategies explained that “the analysis shows that a portfolio of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) can reduce demand at the scale needed to realize large capital deferrals, and in a manner that advances community resilience, customer choice, and the public interest.”
This first phase of developing an alternative model of the electrical system expands the scenarios that PREPA used to prepare its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a project and investment map of the corporation for the next two decades, which is currently being evaluated by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau.
“The analysis confirms that the IRP is mainly based on large-scale energy resources, considerable capital investments in transmission and distribution, and continued dependence on fossil fuel sources to address future energy needs,” said Ingrid M. Vila-Biaggi, president of CAMBIO, a participating organization of Queremos Sol.
“The report shows that, beyond what PREPA proposes, there is a range of alternatives, such as DER, that the corporation can adopt to transform the electrical system in a sustainable way, at a much lower cost and with greater benefits to Puerto Ricans,” she added.
DERs are energy solutions or technologies located near the consumer that can provide power or other value, including to multiple customers and back to the electricity grid. These technologies and solutions may include distributed generation such as rooftop renewable energy (such as solar), energy efficiency, energy storage, electric vehicles and demand-response technologies.
The report indicates that, due to converging trends, such as the sharp decline in the cost of distributed energy solutions, including residential systems, there is increased customer interest in alternative power. Since there is rising demand for greater energy resiliency, and growing interest in clean energy choices, DERs have increasingly become a “go-to” option for customers, utilities, and stakeholders looking to transition to a more efficient, and cost-effective energy system.
The analysis proposes to invest in the following areas:
- Energy efficient appliances: A well-designed energy efficiency program would offer incentives and rebates for the installation of energy-efficient lighting, refrigerators and air conditioning;
- Solar water heaters: Greater funding is needed to support the Weatherization Assistance Program that installs solar hot water heaters for low-income residents. The program made a significant effort in 2010 and 2011 but funding has since dwindled;
- Rooftop solar and storage: Because Puerto Rico’s electricity demand peaks during the night, distributed energy storage is needed for rooftop solar systems to be able to contribute to reducing nighttime peak demand. Household energy storage systems also add to resiliency by enabling households to continue using their own power when the rest of the grid goes down;
- Commercial demand response: A commercial demand response program would provide financial incentives to commercial energy users to shift their energy usage away from peak demand times; and,
- Integrated volt-var control: This involves more effective management by PREPA of its distribution system in order to better control the voltage delivered to customers, resulting in overall reductions in energy consumption.
“We’re in time to stop the IRP that PREPA wants to impose on the people of Puerto Rico for the next 20 years. With this report we show that there is another way to transform the Island’s electricity system without relying on fossil fuels such as methane gas,” said Adriana González of Sierra Club.
Myrna Conty, from the Anti-Incineration Coalition, a member of the Queremos Sol coalition, stressed that the analysis provides processes for citizens’ participation in the efficient generation and consumption of energy.
“The document also confirms that improved communication from PREPA would allow customers and interested parties to make informed decisions and reduce unnecessary conflict. Ignoring the recommendations of experts who support the Queremos Sol proposal, in an effort to tie down island residents to the same large-scale, gas-based and centralized model will cost ratepayers more in their monthly bills and in the public debt, as well as increase threats to our safety, health and the environment,” said Conty.
Tom Sanzillo, Finance Director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, added, “the report reaffirms that rooftop solar and efficiency are cost-effective alternatives for Puerto Rico. PREPA should opt for these measures over investments in centralized fossil fuel generation.”