SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced on Monday his intention for the island to “take the plunge” and generate between 20-25 percent of its electricity from renewable energy.
The governor made the announcement at a joint press conference with the island’s non-voting representative in the US Congress, Jennifer Gonzalez, upon the visit of a delegation of lawmakers, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
“That is our vision for what the energy grid must be and taking the important plunge into renewable energy,” he said.
Rossello said that the energy to be used would include solar, wind and hydroelectric power along with establishing electric micro-grids.
The latter are small energy networks that can provide additional support for the general or main network.
He also mentioned that a program will be launched to equip 85,000 homes with solar panels and batteries.
The governor, along with Gonzalez, also emphasized the importance of letting the lawmakers see firsthand the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Maria 50 days ago.
The powerful storm virtually destroyed the island’s electric grid.
The delegation and Gonzalez on Monday traveled to the municipality of Barranquitas, where they were welcomed by Mayor Francisco Lopez and were to receive briefings and see the storm’s devastation close up.
“It’s really important for us to have the opportunity to continue having these visits. It’s not the same seeing it on television or hearing a report as to be in the place where the things are happening,” Gonzalez said.
She also said that the congressional delegation organized by Sen. Lisa Murkowski came with members of the Transportation Committee.
She said that both the Senate and the House are keeping in mind the issues affecting Puerto Rico, “which means that Puerto Rico is on the agenda of Congress.”
“Some of the requests that, both the governor and (I) have been getting are changes in the Stafford Act. These would allow there to be greater (efforts) and much of the infrastructure can be rebuilt, instead of repairing it,” she said.
The delegation of lawmakers visited Barrio Helechal, where one of the districts was rendered incommunicado until just a few days ago due to the collapse of a bridge.
The delegation also visited the Quebradillas sector, where another bridge collapsed.
There, businesspeople are still cleaning up their shops, which were deluged with mud during landslides caused by the storm.
After seeing Barranquitas, the lawmakers overflew areas where solar panels are set up, along with wind turbines, as well as the electric power plants of Aguirre and Guayama.
The delegation arrived in Puerto Rico on Sunday night after visiting St. Thomas and the US Virgin Islands, along with the Guaynabo Children’s Hospital to familiarize themselves with the TESLA project, where solar panels and batteries are being installed to stabilize electricity availability at the medical facility.