The island’s newly passed Bill 1121 specifies clear mid-term objectives and deliverables.
Learning from the massive destruction of its infrastructure by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is now treading a new path towards sustainability and resilience. The island has just joined the club of cities and countries committed to having all its electricity needs met by renewables by 2050.
The country’s newly passed Bill 1121 specifies clear mid-term objectives and deliverables. The first target of 40% renewables is set for 2025, while a ban on new coal power plants will enter into force in 2028. To support renewable deployment, any solar taxation will also be banned once the bill enters into force. All utilities will need to purchase Solar Renewable Energy Credits to comply with the new legislation and ensure a gradual switch to renewables.
Breaking with its reliance on diesel generators, the island aims to build an interconnected and resilient energy system. It plans to have a 90-day interconnection for solar-metered systems from 25 kW to 5 MW, along with an automatic interconnection of systems under 25 kW with 30-day net metering. All this is expected to decrease the risk of power outages due to extreme weather events, to lower electricity costs and to support the fast-paced development of distributed microgrids.
The bill terms old systems “inefficient and unreliable” while mandating “affordable electricity for all consumers” and provision of service even if companies responsible for it go bankrupt. The bill has already passed the Senate and is waiting to be signed by the island’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló.
Puerto Rico has been embracing renewables for years. According to Google’s Project Sunroof, 90% of 44,000 surveyed building roofs are viable for solar power, while solar heat pumps have already played an instrumental role in restoring the island’s access to water. Puerto Rico has plenty of international support, with organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund contributing with expertise to help locals make informed decisions.
“Policymakers have listened to the solar and storage industry leaders’ input,” notes P. J. Wilson, a spokesman for Solar & Energy Storage Association of Puerto Rico, in comments on the bill. “[The bill] eliminates many of the barriers that have frustrated solar deployment for years and creates a strong vision for ramping up clean energy, but implementing the law will require strong continued industry collaboration before the utility’s regulator and other agencies.”