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U.S. Dept. of Energy names Carbó head of Puerto Rico grid modernization

The U.S. Department of Energy appointed Agustín Carbó-Lugo, current director of Energy Transition at the Environmental Defense Fund, as the head of the Puerto Rico Grid Modernization and Recovery Team initiative.

In his new role, Carbó-Lugo will work on behalf of the Biden administration with the Puerto Rican government to unify efforts to modernize the island’s electric system.

The announcement was made during the Solar and Energy Storage Association of Puerto Rico (SESA) Summit, when US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm confirmed that the initiative “is not another layer of bureaucracy. This is to cut through bureaucracy. To coordinate a cross-government effort that will help Puerto Rico finally overcome the challenges that have plagued the energy infrastructure here for far too long. The President is demanding results, and so are you.”

During his visit to Puerto Rico in October, shortly after Hurricane Fiona, President Biden said the Department of Energy would work more closely and effectively with local authorities to restructure the electric system in Puerto Rico. The island has a goal of sourcing 100% of its power from renewable sources by 2050.

“Carbó-Lugo made Environmental Defense Fund’s community-based solar and storage project a successful reality. His breadth of knowledge and experience with Puerto Rico’s regulatory environment — and his empathy toward families affected by the energy crisis — make him a leader who will help meet the territory’s climate and energy challenges head on, while respecting the sensitivities of local communities,” said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Carbó-Lugo is a former legal advisor of the Reichard & Escalera law firm, which applauded his designation.

“We know firsthand [his] commitment to environmental development and the resilient development of the electrical system in Puerto Rico. We also recognize his large-scale management capacity, his conciliatory spirit, his ethical principles, and his spirit that the projects come to an end for collective progress,” said Rafael Escalera, founding partner of the Reichard & Escalera Law Firm on behalf of the firm.

Granholm vows to move things along
During the SESA event, Granholm tucked into the island’s historic problems with energy supply.

“For far too long, Puerto Ricans have borne the burden of an unreliable electrical grid. For far too long, Puerto Ricans have suffered because of needless obstacles to needed investments and interminable delays to essential improvements. For far too long, you have seen plans without action to follow, heard promises that ultimately ring hollow,” she said.

“And the consequences are incalculable,” she noted during her speech at the event.

During a visit two weeks ago, Granholm grilled local and federal officials for the reasons why five years after Hurricane María, there’s roughly $12 billion in authorized federal funding still unspent, and why [Hurricane Fiona] a Category 1 storm caused so much damage.   

“We’re here to work with Puerto Rico. To help ensure the island realizes the vision it already has for its energy system: reaching 100% renewable energy by 2050,” she said. “That goal will put Puerto Rico on course to create real opportunity from the wake of disaster.” 

“Because a future powered by renewables is one that can offer more energy security and more reliability — all while leaving households with cheaper bills to pay,” she said, noting that only 3% of Puerto Rican households currently have renewable energy systems.

Granholm also acknowledged that the rules and regulations from the federal and Puerto Rico governments need to be streamlined, “to say the least.”

“Now, let me say that there are wonderful public servants administering these rules—many of whom themselves are frustrated with the pace. But the system they are operating under must be recalibrated to get the results for the people of Puerto Rico much faster,” she said.   

“So, we’re going to work with our federal partners to overcome the substantial process issues that have held up the flow of investments,” she said.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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