The Island of Enchantment Struggling To Kick The Fossil Fuel Habit

State Economy

The population of the  “Island of Enchantment.” Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is approximately 2.70 million people[1]. In 2021, 100% of the people in this American territory in the Caribbean had access to electricity[2].

In 2021, Puerto Rico’s economy was ranked 61st in the world in gross domestic product (GDP)[3]. The country’s economy is dependent on the export[4] of packaged medicaments, vaccines, hormones, orthopedic appliances, and medical instruments.

Environmental Policies

In 2016, the United States, including territories like Puerto Rico and American Samoa signed the Paris Climate Agreement[5], committing to a 26% domestic reduction in greenhouse gases by 2025, compared to 2005.

In 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The United States formerly withdrew from the Paris Agreement on November 4, 2020.

In 2019, Puerto Rico’s government mandated the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) generate 40% of all its electricity from renewable resources by 2025, 60% by 2040, and 100% by 2050.

In 2020, the PREPA used oil (94.7 %) and renewable energy (5.3 %) to generate electricity in Puerto Rico[6]. Wind and solar were the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Puerto Rico.

In 2021, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would officially rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. The United States formerly rejoined the Paris Agreement on February 19, 2021.

In June 2022, the average price for residential electricity in Puerto Rico[7] was 27.88 ¢ per kWh, compared to the average price for residential electricity in the United States of 15.42 ¢ per kWh.

Renewable energy developments in Puerto Rico include:

  • 146 MW Solar Project – Canadian development company, Greenbriar Capital has commenced work on the Montalva Photovoltaic Solar project at a site approximately 75 miles southwest of the capital, San Juan. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2023.
  • 2 MW Wind Project – In November 2012, California renewable energy company, Pattern Energy Group commissioned the Santa Isabel Wind project at a site approximately 30 miles southwest of San Juan.
  • 27 MW Solar Project – In September 2013, Puerto Rican renewable energy company, Coqui Power commissioned the San Fermin Solar project at a site approximately 5 miles east of San Juan.
  • 5 MW Solar + 1.1 MW Energy Storage – Italian utility Enel and Irish power company Eaton are continuing work on a solar plus energy storage system at a site approximately 30 miles west of San Juan. The project is forecast to be commissioned by year-end 2022.

Conclusions

Puerto Rico, like many island nations imports all its refined petroleum for power generation and transportation. However, the ever increasing cost of petroleum caused Puerto Rico to move from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) to low-cost, reliable renewable energy.

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico. It took eleven months for the common wealth’s utility, PREPA to restore consistent power to the island.

In September 2022 Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, causing flooding and wide spread power outages. The hurricane demonstrated the importance of solar power and energy storage systems.

Puerto Rico has significant undeveloped renewable energy resources including onshore wind, solar, offshore wind, and biomass. However, the devastation from major storms and hurricanes has limited  the commonwealth’s ability to rapidly develop new renewable energy projects.

It is highly unlikely that the electric utility, PREPA will be able to meet the government’s mandate of generating 40% of Puerto Rico’s electricity from renewable energy.

The Island of Enchantment is struggling to kick the fossil fuel habit.

 

Jack Kerfoot

Website “Our Energy Conundrum”

www.jackkerfoot.com

 

Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on a wide range of energy topics.

[1] Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Population (2022) –  September 19, 2022, www.worldometers.info

[2] The World Bank Group, Access to Electricity (% of Population – Puerto Rico

[3] Gross Domestic Product By Country 2021 – Worldometer

[4] The Observatory of Economic Complexity – Puerto Rico

[5] Carbon Brief “Paris 2015: Tracking Country Climate Pledges”

[6] Our World In Data, Puerto Rico: Energy Country Profile by Hanna Ritchie and Max Roser

[7] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Puerto Rico Territory Profile and Energy Estimates

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