During the visit of the US president two weeks after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, the president reported that Jenniffer Granholm will lead the new federal team in charge of rebuilding the electrical system

NEW YORK – After President Joe Biden, during his visit to Puerto Rico a little over two weeks ago, entrusted Energy Secretary Jenniffer Granholm with speeding up the repair and reconstruction of the electrical grid, the official will arrive this Thursday and He will remain on the island until tomorrow to meet with representatives of the local government and other sectors.

Before leaving for the United States, Granholm acknowledged that despite the billions of dollars allocated to revitalize the system, the lack of action is evident and the processes are moving slowly.

“This lack of action makes it clear that the renewal of the network must be accelerated to do the right thing by the Puerto Rican people,” the official said in a written statement quoted by El Nuevo Día.

The representative of the Biden Administration said that there are fundamental and critical flaws in the island’s electrical system that cast doubt on its effectiveness.

In Puerto Rico, Granholm will meet not only with government officials, but also with spokespersons from community-based and environmental organizations, as well as members of private industry.

During today’s afternoon, Granholm, together with Governor Pedro Pierluisi, is expected to lead round tables at the San Juan Convention Center.

Hurricane Fiona, which hit the country on September 18, shortly before the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, uncovered the crisis in the energy system in Puerto Rico.

After a general blackout and three weeks after the attack, the Canadian consortium LUMA Energy contracted last year to supply electricity to Puerto Ricans had not restored most of the service.

A little over a month after the event, there are residents in sectors of the island who are barely seeing the light in their homes.

At least 31,000 subscribers remained without electricity service until Wednesday after units of the cogenerator AES Puerto Rico, in Guayama, were left without service on two occasions for unknown reasons, according to the aforementioned newspaper.

The energy crisis responds in part to the delay of government authorities to promote large-scale renewable energy projects.

Two years after the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized the allocation of $9.5 billion to rebuild the network, until a few weeks ago, only about $183 million had been secured for projects of this type.

In the discussion, there are also different positions on the approach that should be given to the funds allocated by FEMA.

For example, Ruth Santiago, a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, stated this week at a hearing of the Energy Commission of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on the restructuring of the debt in the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority ( PREPA) that the corporation’s future bond issues should be directed to promoting solar energy projects in Puerto Rico.

In this context, the expert argued that it is important to create a decentralized electrical system in which the funds received by the Authority are allocated to solar energy systems and not to rebuilding the network.

The Biden Administration has indicated that the purpose of the Department of Energy is to launch the modernization of the electrical network. But it is not clear to what extent the focus will be the development of renewable energy.

On October 3, Biden highlighted that Granholm will be in charge of the new federal team that will monitor the repair work of the electrical system on the island that facilitates the total transition to renewable energy. Federal allocations to the island seek to transition to 100% renewable energy production by 2050.

“The Puerto Rico Grid Modernization and Recovery Team will work throughout the federal government, including with FEMA, HUD and the Department of Commerce, to coordinate technical assistance and access federal funds in an expeditious and strategic manner,” he said. previously the secretary.

A White House fact sheet dated September 28 highlighting the Declaration of Major Disaster for Puerto Rico for a period of 30 days mentions that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act approved in the United States Congress allocates $38 million in funds for increase the resilience of the electricity grid, improve energy security, increase clean energy initiatives and increase the affordability of energy.

Organizations inside and outside the US ask for $5 billion for rooftop solar

In this sense, more than 30 organizations from Puerto Rico and the United States requested that $5,000 million be granted for the installation of solar panels and storage batteries in residences in Puerto Rico.

Several US environmental organizations joined the initiative headed by groups such as the environmentalist Cambio, Boricuas Unidos en la Diaspora (BUDPR), Alianza por Puerto Rico and Massachusetts Alliance for Affordable Energy, among others.

The group sent a letter addressed to Granholm; the Democratic spokeswoman in the federal House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi; the chair of the Appropriations Committee, Rosa DeLauro; and the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shalanda Young, in which they formalize their support for a proposal for these purposes signed by 38 federal legislators, led by the president of the Natural Resources Committee of that body, Raúl Grijalva.

“We write in support of the request by Congressman Grijalva and other members of Congress to allocate $5 billion for rooftop solar and storage in Puerto Rico. In the face of increasingly severe storms and a mismanaged centralized grid, rooftop solar keeps refrigerators running and medical equipment running, saving lives, as seen most recently during and after Hurricane Fiona,” the letter reads. .

In this sense, the activists asked to include community organizations and representatives of the University of Puerto Rico in the discussion.

“We emphasize the importance of ensuring that any rooftop solar and storage program managed by the federal Department of Energy is designed in collaboration with community organizations and resources from the University of Puerto Rico that understand the strengths and needs of the populations with whom they work. who work. Many of these organizations have already been working for years, with scarce resources, to bring solar panels to the roofs of their communities”, requested the subscribers.

In the midst of this call, the claim for the cancellation of LUMA’s contract for the date of November 30 is publicly debated. The questions about the daily interruptions in the energy service, the lack of personnel, and seven consecutive increases in the electricity bill in the period of approximately one year, have dissatisfied a good part of the Puerto Rican population inside and outside the island.

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