Photo Credit: NBC
The greater part of Puerto Rico suffers from power outages following the onslaught of Hurricane Fiona this week. The hurricane packed winds that uprooted trees and destroyed electricity lines rendering households and business establishments without power.
The energy emergency Puerto Rico currently faces is a testament to its energy infrastructure’s inefficiency. Experts say that this needs to be addressed as soon as possible if the country does not want the same to happen after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico five years ago.
Hurricane Maria caused severe damage to the country, forcing several regions of Puerto Rico to experience an 11-month-long blackout, the longest in the history of the United States. Further, the hurricane took away the lives of 3,000 citizens.
While foreign aid came rushing after Hurricane Maria, lawmakers contend that the remedies done to repair and upgrade the electric grid were “very little.” According to Senator Chuck Schumer, the island’s power system is “almost 50 years out of date” due to Puerto Rico’s inattentiveness to the matter. However, Schumer adds that the US government is doing its best to extend help to Puerto Rico. Senator Schumer wrote:
“As our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico continue to feel the wrath of Hurricane Fiona, we continue to monitor the situation here in Congress. Over the weekend, President Biden issued an Emergency Disaster Declaration for Puerto Rico, where 75% of the costs of emergency medical care, disaster response, and food distribution will be covered by the Federal Government.”
“The electric grid is almost 50 years out of date. It’s particularly susceptible to hurricanes. It hasn’t even been repaired since the damage Hurricane Maria five years ago put upon it. And yet we’ve given lots of federal money for the reestablishment, or the rebuilding of the grid and very little has happened. So we need to focus on that issue as well as others.”
“Five years to the day after the arrival of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico needs help to recover from Hurricane Fiona. We need to make sure this time, Puerto Rico has absolutely everything it needs, as soon as possible, for as long as they need it.”
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There is hope amid the disaster
Five years ago, Puerto Rico started the installation of solar and better power systems for households in case power outages happen. When power interruptions happen, the system provides lighting to homes, says Chris Rauscher, a senior director at Sunrun, the largest residential solar company in the US.
While the climate crisis gave birth to stronger and wetter hurricanes, solar companies say that they would invest in better solar set-ups. Places like Puerto Rico will benefit greatly, especially since stronger hurricanes mean a higher frequency for power grids to sustain damage.
“It’s showing that renewables paired with storage … are really the fundamental building blocks of a clean recovery that we need to really focus on on the island and elsewhere,” added Rauscher.
John Berger, an executive at Sunnova, another solar company giant, concurs with Rauscher and says that Puerto Rico is one of the perfect places to implement better and widespread solar-powered homes. In addition, he claims that newer technologies, such as solar power, are better than traditional forms of power sources.
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Veering away from fossil fuel
Puerto Rico has long relied on fossil fuels to power its electric grids, and that is about to change as the US commits to renewable energy resources in the foreseeable future. The Russian cuts pushed prices higher, so the need for an alternate source of energy became even more necessary.
Last February, an agreement was signed between the US and Puerto Rico in an effort to finish the power system of the island.
The governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, declared that it is the priority of his administration the energy transformation of the country, leading it to sustainability and efficiency.
“I will make sure that every federal fund appropriated to Puerto Rico and allocated for the reconstruction of the power grid is used efficiently and effectively,” he said.