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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Senate bill aims to hasten island’s transition to renewable energy

Sen. Juan Zaragoza Gómez

By The Star Staff

Senate legislation supported by all political parties would help hasten the transition to renewable energy sources and give the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) control over the process to incorporate renewable energy into the island’s system.

Senate Bill 781, which was penned by Sen. Juan Zaragoza Gómez, would make changes to the professional requirements of PREPA board members.

The Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act (Law 17 of 2019) already orders a transition to an electricity system at least 20% of whose generation comes from renewable sources on or before the year 2022; 40% on or before the year 2025; 60% on or before of the year 2040; and 100% on or before the year 2050. However, by early 2022, electricity generation from renewable sources was only 3.6%.

In January, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB) hired an independent coordinator to advance the incorporation of renewables pursuant to Tranche 2 request-for-proposal projects. The PREB hired Accion Group, which moved to procure up to 500 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity and 250 MW of energy storage capacity.

Sources close to the process said PREPA’s governing board is being kept in the dark about the process. However, one of the sources attributed that to the fact that all of the board members have little knowledge of renewable energy.

The legislation is aimed at changing that situation by revising PREPA’s requirements for board members.

Senate Bill 781 would provide PREPA with the expertise it needs to carry the transition to renewables by requiring that at least two of the three governing board members selected by the governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, possess expertise in renewable energy matters, including photovoltaics and energy storage.

Of those two members, one must have at least 10 years of proven and direct experience in the implementation of renewable energy in organizations of size and complexity similar to PREPA.

Likewise, one of the independent candidates chosen by the governor, but without the advice and consent of the Senate, must also have expertise in renewables.

The legislation would create the position of deputy executive director for the integration of renewable energy. That official would be selected from a list of five candidates presented to the governing board and prepared by a talent search firm or headhunter firm. The person selected would be in charge of working on renewable energy contracts.

“This would eliminate the need to have an independent contractor [coordinator] for renewables,” a source said.

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