Brown sees nuclear power as an option for PREPA
By The Star Staff
The federal coordinator for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico, Rear Adm. Peter Brown, said Wednesday that he supports the law requiring the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to draw power from renewables in its entirety by 2050, but not the ban on other energy technologies.
The U.S. Department of Energy is analyzing the island’s energy needs and supports a varied mix that steers Puerto Rico away from fossil fuels and that includes solar, wind, hydro or water as well as cogeneration, natural gas and even small modular nuclear reactors.
Puerto Rico took nuclear energy out of its energy mix in the 1990s. “And again I am not referring to the 1970s style nuclear power plants, but small modular reactors with a much smaller footprint,” Brown said during the PR Grid Revitalization Forum.
A 2019 law stipulates that Puerto Rico must draw 40 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025, 60 percent by 2040, and 100 percent by 2050.
Brown said the 100 percent renewable goal was not realistic because no renewable energy alternative exists to provide energy without the need for a conventional fuel backup.
“I think articulating that as a goal rather than putting in place strict prohibitions on other technologies, I think it is probably the right move and brings aspirational aims without analyzing currently viable and economical technologies,” he said.
Brown said he and the federal Department of Energy support an “all of the above approach” using resilient alternatives to steer Puerto Rico away from the use of oil.
An agreement between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the local government is expected to be unveiled in the coming months to rebuild the power grid using industry standard-proven technologies.
Brown did not say how much money the federal government will put forward to renew Puerto Rico’s energy grid. Brown said once the “fixed cost estimate” for the restoration is in place, money will start flowing to pay for projects to build Puerto Rico’s grid.
Meanwhile, several officials, including attorney Fernando Agrait, reiterated that PREPA’s restructuring support agreement is not viable now because of the damage to the economy caused by earthquakes and the global coronavirus pandemic. A status report on the plan is scheduled to be submitted in federal bankruptcy court on July 30.