By The Star Staff
Independent Rep. Luis Raúl Torres Cruz charged Monday that the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB) has ordered the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and the Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3A) to launch a request for proposals (RFP) for the construction of a new dual fuel (natural gas and hydrogen) combined cycle plant that could be located on the island.
Torres Cruz said the order issued Aug. 3 violates public policy in favor of renewable energy sources.
“This is really a surprise, since on July 9, 2022, through a comment in a newspaper of general circulation, PREB President Edison Avilés Deliz stated that ‘the Authority’s generation should be directed to renewable sources and the use of batteries’ and identified renewable sources as the future that is already here,” the legislator said.
“However, the PREB justifies this order by citing the year and a half delay in the implementation of renewable energy projects, the uncertainty in the costs of near-future solar energy storage, and other potential system reliability concerns,” Torres Cruz noted. “In addition, the order provides that the authorized plant must comply with being highly cost-effective and its process must not further delay solar power generators.”
The San Juan District 2 lawmaker said the new PREB order is completely contrary to Puerto Rico’s Energy Public Policy, which establishes the unwavering goal of achieving 100% electricity generation from renewable sources by the year 2050. The proposed combined plant would take about five years to design, permit, build and commission.
“This with natural gas, because the use of hydrogen is still in the research and design stage,” he said. “In fact, hydrogen also presents challenges that must be understood and controlled, such as increased reactivity and risk in handling, among others.”
“So what will we do with our generation fleet in the meantime? Will we continue burning oil, failing to comply with air quality parameters?” Torres Cruz said. “Would it not be a viable option to convert some PREPA units that are accessible to natural gas and that could represent a lower investment and an achievable goal in less time? After all, isn’t this a precautionary step, as stated in the PREB order itself?”
“I am not an engineer or an energy expert, but these questions require satisfying answers,” he added. “Especially when Sea One Holdings LLC, which has [former Gov.] Luis G. Fortuño Burset on its board of advisors, has already requested information from PREPA to justify the construction of a natural gas terminal in the Guayama region. Also, in the executive hearing of the Energy Committee of the House of Representatives, AES President Jesús Bolinaga informed us that the future of clean energy is hydrogen and that AES PR does not rule out working with this source of energy in the future. This stirs up more questions: Where will the environmental justice claims of the citizens of that region remain?”
The legislator said that if the order is aimed at the P3A carrying out an RFP for the construction of a combined cycle plant, more questions come up such as whether the process will be transparent, unlike the process to select LUMA Energy.
“There are too many questions,” Torres Cruz said. “There are too many negative experiences. There are too many excuses that Governor Pedro Pierluisi has given us that do not satisfy anyone. For all this, we cannot allow the PREB to join this parade of negligent acts contrary to the well being of our island.”