- Puerto Rico state legislature has approved SB 1121 bill that mandates the region to aim for 40% renewable energy share by 2025 and go 100% renewable by 2050
- It has now moved to the table of Governor Ricardo Rossello to be signed and turned into a law
- The bill makes way for net metering for 5 years for system sizes under 25 kW and enables streamlined permitting of utility-scale ground-mounted projects also for 5 years
- Distributed generation assets will have open and non-discriminatory access to distribution networks
- It also exempts solar electric storage equipment from sales and use tax
Ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico has vowed to go 100% renewable in its energy requirements by 2050. The state legislature has passed a bill to this effect that’s referred to as Senate Bill (SB) 1121 or Senate Project (PS) 1121, which now awaits signature of Governor Ricardo Rossello to become a law. An unofficial English translation of the bill provided by the Solar+Energy Storage Association of Puerto Rico (SESA-PR) has been making the rounds across various media.
At the end of fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, the country’s renewable energy generation capacity stood at 2%, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). This included 127 MW of utility scale solar and 88 MW of distributed solar. Most of the electricity supply was served by petroleum, natural gas and coal.
Under SB 1121, the region will aim for 100% renewable energy by 2050, and in the interim reach for 40% by 2025.
The Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act will disallow any coal plants with effect from 2028. It would offer net metering for 5 years for systems under 25 kW to enable consumers to become prosumers. Post the 5-year period, systems will be grandfathered for 20 years for new clients. It will enable streamlined permitting of utility-scale ground-mounted solar projects for the next 5 years, with 20-year grandfathering for new clients.
Distributed generation assets will have open and non-discriminatory access to distribution networks. Development of microgrids will also be a priority under the new regime. Solar electric storage equipment will be exempt from the sales and use tax. The Bureau of Energy will get a higher budget along with more powers and authority.
The government is hoping the policy will guide for a resilient, reliable and robust energy system in Puerto Rico with fair and reasonable rates for all classes of consumers.
James Ellsmoor, Co-Founder and Director of Solar Head of State, an international non-profit, said Puerto Rico is on the road to recovery with the new program even as the next challenge is to implement the ambitious goal. It would mean changes for the island’s utility, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) that is reeling under debt worth $9 billion.
In a LinkedIn post dated March 7, 2019, PJ Wilson, President of SESA-PR, wrote, “Going forward without fundamental changes is not an option for Puerto Rico. PS1121 increases the budget of the Energy Bureau, which regulates PREPA, from $ 5 million to $ 20 million each year so that they can have the necessary resources currently to regulate PREPA, which is their purpose. At this moment they are beginning a very important process of planning, for the first time, the activities of PREPA for the next 20 years.” He added, “If there is no PS1121, the plan would be to continue on the same erroneous path for the next 20 years.”
In February 2019, the draft Integrated Resource Plan of Puerto Rico commissioned by PREPA recommended more than 2 GW of PV and over 1 GW of energy storage capacity for the territory by 2038, but made no mention of rooftop solar and storage (see Puerto Rico Planning 2.22 GW Solar By 2038).
With its 100% renewable energy target, Puerto Rico joins the list of other US territories such as Hawaii, Washington DC and very recently New Mexico that have similar targets, with Washington DC leading the pack thanks to its aggressive timeline to reach 100% RE by 2032 (see New Mexico On Course For 100% Renewables).