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The U.S. is planning to turn Puerto Rico into a $12 billion sustainability experiment

The U.S. government is getting ready to transform Puerto Rico into a hub of renewable energy and net-zero carbon innovation.

Through a multi-departmental effort involving the departments of energy, homeland security, and housing and urban development the U.S. will work with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to develop dozens of grid modernization projects.

It's an attempt to manage the spending of $12 billion in reconstruction and modernization projects that are slated to take place across Puerto Rico.

That includes spending for at least 2 gigawatts of renewable energy and 1 gigawatt of energy storage projects across the island.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is helping Puerto Rico strengthen the island’s resilience, and in the process unlock its potential for cheap and abundant renewable energy,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, in a statement. “Today’s commitments and the launch of the PR100 Study show that 2022 will be a year of action to modernize Puerto Rico’s grid and increase energy resilience as we accelerate your work with Puerto Rico to execute data-driven, community-tailored pathways towards 100% clean electricity.”

A little over four years since Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes in history, the island is still working to repair the damage it wrought.

“As Puerto Rico continues to rebuild and recover, we will work with our interagency partners to help create a more sustainable future and ensure communities have access to affordable energy and cleaner air,” said Homeland Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas. “This administration is making unprecedented investments in communities to help them adapt and become more resilient, and we will continue to provide the necessary resources to achieve these goals.”

The scale of the work is pretty unprecedented. Through FEMA, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and LUMA Energy, some 138 projects will be under construction for island-wide substation repairs, the replacement of streetlights and an early warning system to improve dam safety.

Meanwhile, about 1.5 gigawatts of energy storage and 3.7 gigawatts of renewable energy projects are planned for the island including renewable energy and virtual power plants that will use energy efficiency and demand response measures to create alternatives to additional generation.

The department of housing and urban development plans to spend an additional $1.9 billion to develop microgrids which could enhance reliability and resilience in the event of storms that damage the island's transmission and distribution systems.

All of this work is going to be coordinated through an initiative called the Puerto Rico Grid Resilience and Transition to 100% Renewable Energy (PR100) Study, which the government said is designed to ensure that funded energy recovery actions align with Puerto Rico energy policy and resilience needs, are coordinated across sectors, and align with industry best practices.

“One of my top priorities as Governor of Puerto Rico since I took office has been to ensure that Puerto Rico’s energy transformation moves forward at a steady and reliable pace. I will make sure that every federal fund appropriated to Puerto Rico and allocated for the reconstruction of the power grid is used efficiently and effectively,” said Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi in a statement.


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