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New government in Puerto Rico must focus on transforming the energy sector

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By Agustín Carbó

In recent years, we have witnessed how legislation seeks to transform the electricity sector in Puerto Rico. In 2014, the Energy Transformation and RELIEF Act was approved, which for the first time created an independent regulatory entity capable of overseeing and enforcing Puerto Rico’s energy policy. Five years later, in 2019, the Public Energy Policy Law passed, with a bipartisan vote, which essentially mandates Puerto Rico source 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2050.

With a new government in Puerto Rico, there is a historic opportunity to execute public policies capable of transforming the archipelago’s electric system, having a positive impact on future generations. That is why it is extremely important for Puerto Ricans that the directives and goals established in the Integrated Resource Plan of the Electric Power Authority be implemented as modified by the Energy Bureau. This will ensure that the electrical system is clean, reliable, resilient and affordable in order to revitalize the economy and improve the quality of life of all residents.

This transformation requires that the incoming administration commit to carry out energy resource planning, with a 20-year horizon. This planning was achieved in large part by the intervention of civil society, interest groups and the government. The collaboration of these various sectors has been fundamental to guarantee transparency and credibility in the processes and public institutions in charge of executing Puerto Rico’s energy policy.

Although the Energy Bureau is a relatively young entity, it has made great strides in transforming the electricity sector, such as laying the foundations for a new way of accountability for PREPA — including the control of its expenses and strategic planning. In addition, the bureau has required aggressive targets for the integration of renewable energy sources that mitigate the effects of climate change, while Puerto Rico transitions from fossil fuels to renewables reducing its harmful impacts on the environment and public health.

A distinguishing feature of the Energy Bureau is the high public participation in its regulatory and adjudicative processes, which range from rate review to energy resource planning. This independent government body has been able to make decisions with the expertise of community-based groups, environmental organizations and others, thereby enriching its processes and seeking consensus for the benefit of all parties.

However, we must not lower our guard. It is our collective responsibility to continue the discussion and enrich the processes, which will eventually lead Puerto Rico to achieve its energy goal. In particular, the new administration has a duty to let the regulator do its job without political interference in order to guarantee credibility and consistency in energy policy decision-making that will affect the island’s future. Similarly, carefully structured processes that have already been implemented must continue to position Puerto Rico and the bureau at the same level as similar entities throughout the world.

Political interests cannot be allowed to interfere and change Puerto Rico’s current path towards a better future. The communities throughout the archipelago demand respect, and will not tolerate changes to established processes to allow for dirty energy projects that can take us back to the past.

Puerto Rico is on its way to becoming a global model of clean energy and innovation for the future. It can be a model for states and countries that do not have the tools to achieve a true energy transformation. The new government has a duty to do things correctly and meet the goals of the new energy policy.

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