Puerto Rico Energy Forum Highlights Successes and Opportunities of Public Private Partnerships (PPP) for the Energy Sector

Source: James Salasovich, NREL 53587

The government of Puerto Rico hosted the Puerto Rico Energy Forum on October 28 in Washington, DC, to highlight the tremendous energy investment opportunities and resilience improvements Puerto Rico has achieved since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island’s energy system. Speakers on the forum included additional representatives from the Puerto Rico Public Private Partnerships Authority (P3); Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB); Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA); Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3); Department of Housing and LUMA Energy.

During his opening remarks, Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi stated that Puerto Rico “must, with all deliberate speed, update our infrastructure” highlighting that the long-term recovery and mitigation actions, while deliberate and well-funded, are contingent upon public private partnerships for success. He continued: “Puerto Rico’s energy goals are ambitious, and align strictly with President Biden’s clean energy goals.” Governor Pierluisi stressed the importance of resilience as the foundation of Puerto Rico’s clean energy goals, highlighting significant investments in grid modernization, renewable energy procurements, and localized resilience. LUMA Energy, the company in charge of Puerto Rico’s transmission and distribution system since June of 2021, also spoke to the company’s enthusiasm about working to support Puerto Rico’s ambitious energy goals. “It’s more than just poles and wires,” noted Wayne Stensby, President and CEO of LUMA. Mr. Stensby emphasized the importance of working with Puerto Rican citizens, mayors, and the Commonwealth government writ large in rebuilding and restructuring a grid that is reliable, affordable, and clean.

One notable program, funded through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (US HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, has supported community resilience by providing $300 million for solar+storage and water storage to be built on individual residences. Additionally, $400 million has been allocated through the program for a green energy trust, which will support low to median income residents’ energy bills. Some of these funds have will also be used to energy efficient programs. Separately, $20 million from the American Rescue Plan Actor of 2021 (ARPA) has been dedicated to subsidize energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for small businesses. Services related to this subsidize will be provided by other small business to foster the green energy industry and create jobs. Despite the significant investments already made, a significant amount of unspent funding remains. An outstanding $14 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs alone is earmarked for energy infrastructure repairs, investment, and mitigation. This is not inclusive of the funding provided by FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, which will provide significant long-term resilience funding opportunities.

In his closing remarks, Governor Pierluisi further stressed the critical role of private partners in achieving Puerto Rico’s clean energy and resilience goals, noting that the PPP model of federally-funded, privately operated, and locally owned infrastructure is a successful model that be leveraged for Puerto Rico’s energy sector.