In a significant development, the Biden administration has unveiled its plans to allocate a substantial $440 million for installing solar panels in Puerto Rico. The Department of Energy (DOE) has disclosed that this funding will lower energy costs for 30,000 to 40,000 single-family households on the island and bolster the resilience of energy sources. This initiative marks a crucial step towards a more sustainable and cost-effective energy future for Puerto Rico.
The initiative aims to create numerous local clean energy jobs while aligning with President Biden’s goal of reducing energy costs for all Americans. Moreover, it supports Puerto Rico’s ambition to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The DOE anticipates the spring of 2024 for the installations to begin.
The program will prioritize households in very low-income neighborhoods that frequently experience prolonged power outages and those with residents who rely on energy-dependent medical equipment such as electric wheelchairs or at-home dialysis machines.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm emphasized that this announcement is a crucial step towards ensuring reliable electricity for all Puerto Rico residents, particularly vulnerable families, and communities for whom power shortages can be a matter of life or death. Granholm further highlighted the potential to save lives while generating local employment opportunities and advancing Puerto Rico’s transition to clean energy.
The Department of Energy has selected three companies, five nonprofits, and cooperatives to install solar panels. It is worth noting that Puerto Rico already possesses a workforce capable of implementing these installations.
Due to its history of power-related challenges, Puerto Rico continues to face difficulties, exemplified by the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, which left millions without electricity for several days. These issues stem primarily from an incomplete reconstruction of the electric grid following the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria, making residents highly susceptible to power outages.
The Energy Department has initiated discussions with three companies, namely Sunnova Energy (NOVA.N), Sunrun (RUN.O), and Generac Power Systems (GNRPS.UL). These companies are being considered for a potential total funding of $400 million to facilitate the deployment of residential solar and battery systems.
The devastating impact of Hurricane Maria in 2017 resulted in the tragic loss of up to 4,600 lives in Puerto Rico. The hurricane severely damaged the power grid, leaving many communities, particularly those with elderly and low-income individuals, among the most brutal hit.
In particular mountain towns, the power outage persisted for 11 months. The deployment of rooftop solar and battery storage systems offers a promising solution to mitigate such catastrophic situations in the future.