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Power To Puerto Rico: The Stakes Of Clean Energy

Puerto Rico's main power source comes from imported fossil fuels.
Puerto Rico's main power source comes from imported fossil fuels.

Most Puerto Ricans know too well what life-or-death consequences come with living without power.

The island suffered the largest blackout in U.S. history after Hurricane Maria destroyed its electrical grid in 2017. But power outages are still a daily occurrence there, lasting hours and sometimes days. More than 4,000 people took to the streets in the capital of San Juan recently to protest the utility responsible, LUMA Energy.

— Dánica Coto (@danicacoto) October 15, 2021

As they marched across a highway, Puerto Ricans chanted and held up signs calling for LUMA Energy to “get out and go to hell” in Spanish. 

The private utility company took over the island’s transmission and power distribution back in June. It’s currently partnered with PREPA, Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority.The power crisis is one example of Puerto Rico’s long struggle for better resources and funding for its people. But some advocates say there is an opportunity for stability and change: renewable, clean energy. 

Almost all of Puerto Rico’s power comes from imported fossil fuels. The government there aims to use 100 percent of renewable energy by 2050. It hopes to utilize 40 percent of renewable energy by 2025. Last September, FEMA approved more than $9 billion for Puerto Rico to rebuild its electric system and grid. But, the Biden administration will decide how that money is rolled out.

How to fund clean energy has been a topic of contention in Congress, too. After West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin opposed funding the Clean Electricity Performance Program in the Build Back Better Act, lawmakers scrambled to come up with alternatives to meet the administration’s goals. Biden will attend the U.N.’s climate change summit in Glasgow next week.

What could the future of clean energy look like with the right amount of money? And is it enough to combat climate change, and restore stable power to places like Puerto Rico?

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5