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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Mayors Assn. joins congressional petition to allocate $5 billion for solar panels

Puerto Rico Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hérnández Ortiz

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hérnández Ortiz announced Wednesday that he would actively endorse and lobby in favor of the proposal of a group of U.S. congressmen, who together with House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for her support to allocate $5 billion to install solar panels and batteries on the roofs of residences in Puerto Rico.

“In addition to Grijalva, Nydia Velázquez, Darren Soto, Alexandria Ocasio, Richie Torres, and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, among other legislators, support this,” the Villalba mayor said. “This aid would help low-income households and people with disabilities to promote the agenda of clean and accessible energy in favor of our communities.”

Hernández Ortiz noted that earlier this month, in anticipation of President Biden’s visit to the island, he asked U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to create a team dedicated to accelerating the reconstruction of the electrical grid, whose poor condition has once again become evident after Hurricane Fiona.

“Today, my agenda’s priority is to promote that the mayors have the resources and access to the construction of micro-grids,” Hernández Ortiz said. “We should not have to depend on LUMA Energy and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. This $5 billion congressional initiative should be aimed particularly at lower-income families, where energy is generated from the roofs of homes and stored in batteries. This technology is already available and is part of what we are working on in the Mountain Energy Consortium.”

The mayor pointed out that Villalba, along with other municipalities in Puerto Rico, including Orocovis, Morovis, Barranquitas and Ciales, has been working in the consortium.

“The goal is to make the project viable and use the Toro Negro Hydroelectric Plant as part of the project to produce renewable energy through water power and the sun’s intensity,” he said. “We have seen how, for years, there have been announcements of allocations of federal funds for the reconstruction of the electrical system, and we are not seeing the results. This is one of the issues I will be discussing with Secretary Granholm.”

The federal energy secretary is scheduled to visit the island today.

Public hearings slated for proposed law to enforce solar panel warranties

The Puerto Rico Senate, meanwhile, is seeking to create the island’s Solar Panel Systems Warranty Enforcement Act. To this end, they initiated the public hearings process through the Committee on Economic Development, Essential Services, and Consumer Affairs, chaired by Guayama District Sen Gretchen Marie Hau.

Hau is the author of Senate Bill 1047, which also seeks to create a registry of manufacturers, distributors and sellers of solar panels at the Department of Consumer Affairs.

“This coming Thursday, October 27, we will begin the process of public hearings to listen to all the sectors that offer or receive services related to solar panel systems on the island. It is common knowledge that installing these systems in homes represents a substantial investment and a sacrifice for families, who are forced to obtain these systems as a remedial measure to handle interruptions in the electric power system,” Hau said. “Given this reality, it is necessary to create an efficient legal framework so that consumers have a system that allows them to enjoy the investment made and, in the event of any damage, to enforce the guarantee of the products that make up the solar panel system.”

The legislative measure arises from a sharp increase in complaints from solar panel system customers and owners about companies failing to fulfill warranties that are supposed to be part of the purchase and sale agreement. In addition, they complain about the lack of legal jurisdiction to address their allegations.

“We hear that citizens who purchase these systems claim noncompliance with the warranties that are part of the contract.” Hau said. “Among them are problems with the batteries, which work inadequately, or the energy storage is different from what was promised in the transaction. These are situations that have to be resolved for the benefit of consumers.”

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