President of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in PR: Red tape is holding island back
Ramón González Simounet, president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Puerto Rico
By JOHN McPHAUL
Ramón González Simounet, the president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce of Puerto Rico, said Sunday that the development of the island is stagnant or slow due to the complicated permitting system found in government agencies. González Simounet, who is also CEO of the EMPIRE Gas Group, one of the top 10 liquefied gas distribution companies in the United States, said that to achieve a healthy economy and sustainable development on the island, the “honor” method must be implemented or the permitting process must be simplified.
“Puerto Rico has the best professionals in the field of energy worldwide and they are people who can help or advise the government so that the permits come out as quickly as possible,” he said. “We have the talent, but we don’t use it. As a result of the money that is deposited in the banks and the million-dollar allocations made by the federal government for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and Maria with the complication of the earthquake in January 2020, the Government of Puerto Rico should understand that there are certain priorities for infrastructure projects whose start should be given. We know that the money is available; there are million-dollar assignments that have an expiration date.”
“The biggest hurdle for the developer or industrialist is the time it takes to evaluate a permit,” continued the official, who also co-chairs the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce’s Energy Committee. “It is often the case that it takes up to five years to evaluate the documents that are submitted to achieve a final authorization. The situation is worse, when we talk about those infrastructure megaprojects, many of which end up in the archives. There have been cases where government agencies do not issue a permit in final form due to the absence of an employee who has retired, who was assigned to those tasks and the agency has not been able to achieve his replacement.”
Speaking before a forum on the Comprehensive Renewable Energy Portfolio and Resources Plan for Puerto Rico, González Simounet made it clear that manufacturing industries such as pharmaceuticals and large energy consumption companies are already switching to combined systems for the production of their own energy supplies in search of security and better prices.
“In each and every renewable energy project, many of them backed by the use of liquefied gas, the problem for successful achievement is the slowness of permits in government agencies,” he said. “The interesting thing about all this is that we already have the clean, modern and economical technology to supply energy with liquefied gas or solar panels. These modules, many of them manufactured in countries such as India, Germany, Canada or the United States, come with their documentation and specifications, which are combined according to the customer’s energy needs. Even so, the government has put in too many restrictions, demands and bureaucratic steps, which at the end of the project becomes a serious headache, causing unnecessary expenses and a delay of up to five years to achieve the acceptance or granting of the requested permits.”
“This must be modified,” González Simounet emphasized at the
Energy Symposium, where a group of entrepreneurs, industrialists, developers and members of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce participated over the weekend. “One thing is to protect the environment or our coasts, and another thing is to join forces to help manufacturing and other industries install modern and efficient energy production equipment that allows lower costs so as to continue their production and sustain the large workforce of Puerto Ricans who work in those industries.