published on January 13, 2020 |
from Carolyn Fortuna

January 13, 2020 against Carolyn Fortuna


I remember a few years ago when my cruise stopped on Grand Turk Island for the afternoon. I was surprised at how much residual damage was left after the recent hurricanes. Piles of debris were left unkempt on either side of the road. Houses had collapsed on their own. A small pickup attempted to move debris; it looked like a pointless project. There were few signs of major infrastructure repairs around us. I remember being angry with the government for not being proud to rebuild a beautiful area with great coastlines and sea views. We would respond differently if that happened in the US, I felt assured.


It was a long time ago in October 2017 when the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) called for a national day of action to demand that Congress pass on an immediate federal aid package designed for the fair recovery and resilient reconstruction of Puerto Rico after the destruction of Hurricane Maria ?

The blackout was the longest and largest in American history. The recovery efforts of the federal and local authorities were ineffective and remained in infrastructure and social gaps until 2019.

When we welcomed 2020, the people of Puerto Rico were traumatized again – this time through a series of earthquakes, the strongest a category 6.4 on the Richter scale. According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, days after an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 in Puerto Rico and hundreds of aftershocks, the full extent of the damage is only being realized.

Yet the Trump administration continues to withhold funds that Congress appropriated for the island almost a year ago, argues the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The money, under the jurisdiction of the Housing and Urban Development Administration, was intended to support recovery and redevelopment in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria 2017.

Given the vulnerabilities of the Puerto Rico grid after hurricane Maria, the EDF says there is an urgent need to transform its grid into a more modern, resilient and distributed energy system.

  • The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has reduced electricity to half a million residents across the island and has promised to quickly restore service to the other 2.5 million residents, but it may take weeks for some Puerto Ricans to regain their power to get.
  • The main power plants on the island, Costa Sur and EcoEléctrica, were damaged and nearly 300,000 residents had water shortages.

Daniel Whittle, EDF senior director for Caribbean initiatives, states:

“Hurricane Maria has taught us that Puerto Rico must be prepared for catastrophic events by having an electrical system that can support residents and their needs. These recent earthquakes are proof that much still needs to be done. Local leaders must now take action to improve the rules that ensure reliable, affordable electricity and resilience in the communities of Puerto Rico.

The presence of FEMA at the moment in Puerto Rico is only a temporary measure. The real difference in building resilient communities and offering a long-term solution to the island’s energy crisis must come from federal funds that have yet to be released. It is a dirty policy to withhold money intended to protect people’s lives in times of crisis; the Trump administration should release these resilience funds immediately. “

Even before Saturday’s great aftershock, which fissured more roads and caused more landslides, the New York Times reports that Puerto Rico estimated the damage caused by the earthquake at $ 110 million. Government Wanda Vázquez asked the federal government on Saturday to approve a major disaster declaration that would pave the way for additional federal aid, including funds for temporary housing.

The Trump administration approved a first emergency statement last week. CNN notes that the president has not talked or tweeted about the disaster that occurred on US territory, and added that he often makes public comments about natural disasters in the US and abroad and that “Trump has had a loaded history with US territory since Puerto Rico was destroyed in 2017 by Hurricane Maria. “

How to rebuild Grid for Puerto Rico? Microgrids!

The EDF is developing an innovative project to demonstrate the feasibility of including distributed energy sources through systems such as micro grids. These mini-energy service stations refuel with solar energy and run on battery storage and intelligent software, while being less dependent on fossil fuels. Connected to the larger grid – providing affordable, clean and reliable energy every day – these systems can be designed to disconnect from the grid even in emergency situations to keep the lights on in remote parts of the island.

Microgrids are already seeing success in the most remote regions of Puerto Rico. Even with extensive regions of Puerto Rico without electricity as a result of this week’s earthquake, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) reveals that microgrids are in use in 10 schools.

The solar plus storage micro grids have recently been installed by RMI, Save the Children and Kinesis Foundation. These micro grids offer sufficient battery and solar capacity to back up school libraries, administrative offices, kitchens and critical water pumps indefinitely.

“The network is low but the systems work,” says Roy Torbert, director of the RMI Islands Energy Program. “I think what you can learn from the microgrids and the way they have performed is that so much resilience from the community happens from below.” The school microgrids were built in response to Hurricane Maria, who destroyed the island’s electricity grid in September 2017, leaving some without electricity for more than a year.

Last summer, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) published a plan from Siemens Power Technologies International that made recommendations for the energy supply of the utility company over a period of 20 years. The plan called for the modernization of the transmission and distribution network and the creation of electric islands called MiniGrids that function as “zones of resilience”.

A Wood Mackenzie report estimates that the accumulated investments in the micro-grid market in Puerto Rico, which will allow more than 220 megawatts of installed capacity in the next 5 years, will reach $ 419 million. Companies are currently competing for the development of multiple clean energy and micro grid projects on the island.

These trends indicate that the capacity for energy generation from micro grids could double by 2024.

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Tags: Climate Justice Alliance, Environmental Defense Fund, Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico, rocky mountain institute

About the author

Carolyn Fortuna Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is a writer, researcher and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. She has won prizes from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association and The Leavy Foundation.
As part of the sale of her portfolio, she has purchased 5 Tesla shares.
Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.