New Bill Promotes Renewable Energy in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands

Three US Representatives introduced a bill on April 23 that would bring renewable energy to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), and Stacey Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands) introduced the Renewable Energy for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands Act. The bill would create “a grant program for investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, smart grids and micro grids projects,” according to a press release. It will also provide training for residents living on the islands.

The grants will be given to nonprofit organizations, while the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories can provide technical assistance for the projects. In a statement, Congressman Lieu said that communities in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands were severely impacted by Hurricanes Maria and Irma, and many had to live without electricity.

“The aftermath of the hurricanes demonstrated that the islands’ electrical deficiencies were worsened by dated energy grids reliant on imported fossil fuels. Our bill not only assists in efforts to rebuild the islands’ electrical resources, it helps Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands shift towards renewable, clean energy,” Lieu said in a statement. “This change could help the islands become leaders in US renewable energy efforts and would help fortify their energy grids in the event of another hurricane or natural disaster. As climate change continues to worsen natural disasters around the world, it’s becoming increasingly dire that we build a future using clean, renewable energy.”

Hurricane Maria rocked Puerto Rico in September of 2017. The storm left residents without power or basic necessities, and the death toll is estimated at 2,975 but could be higher, CBS News previously reported. Despite the progress the island has made, Congresswoman González-Colón noted that Puerto Rico’s electrical grid is still “dangerously fragile.”

“This bill puts us on the right path to address this and transform Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure by incentivizing the use of alternative, cleaner sources of energy on the island. Specifically, it creates a new grant program for investments in renewables, energy efficiency, energy storage, smart grids and micro grids projects as well as training local residents,” she said in the statement. “These grants, along with continued federal support and local engagement, will be vital as we continue our important work to modernize and strengthen Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure. “

The US Virgin Islands were also greatly impacted by both Hurricane Irma and Maria. The island had lost 90 percent of its power before it was restored in December 2017, USA Today previously reported. Congresswoman Plaskett said the bill would not only help restore the damaged infrastructure both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands experienced, but it would also help invest in using natural energy resources.

“Adopting reliable renewable energy should be a priority across the nation and the world, but the need is far more crucial for areas such as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico which will continue to be affected by storms that are increasing in strength and frequency. The islands’ natural beauty and climate generate significant revenue for the islands every year,” Plaskett said in the statement.

“Ensuring that we are doing our part in the fight against climate change is vital for our economies and for the preservation of the strong cultures of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands for generations to come,” Plaskett continued.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.