Enviros Say Solar Industry Should Not Let Hurricane Energy Crisis Go To Waste

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Puerto Rico politicians and green energy supporters believe that the solar industry should use Hurricane Maria and federal aid from the crisis to completely reconfigure the small island’s electricity grid.

Damage from Maria and the millions of dollars in federal aid devoted to helping Puerto Ricans is a golden opportunity for the solar industry to take root in the small American island, according to Ramon Luis Nieves, a politician in the country’s Popular Democratic Party.

“We cannot waste the opportunity of this crisis and federal aid package,” Nieves, who headed the island’s senate energy committee, told reporters Saturday. “We need to focus on not only getting the grid back up, but improving it so it can tolerate more renewable energy.”

Nearly half of Puerto Rico’s electricity is generated from imported oil. Another third comes from natural gas, while the rest comes from coal energy, according to the Department of Energy.

Meanwhile, green energy supplies about 2.4 percent, even as the island tries to increase renewable energy production.

Maria, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall in Puerto Rico earlier this month, left the entire island and its 3.4 million residents without power and destroyed nearly 80 percent of the island’s electrical grid.

Some of the country’s biggest green energy advocates say the hurricane could wipe the fossil fuel industry clean and allow the solar industry to begin taking root.

“The federal government is in the driver’s seat,” Jeff Ciachurski, a CEO of Greenbiar Capital, which invests solar projects in Puerto Rico and elsewhere, told reporters, adding that the funding could cause a type of green revolution on the island.

Maria has caused more than energy grid problems. It has wiped out huge portions of the island’s atrophying economic engine. Moody’s Analytics, for instance, estimated earlier this month that Puerto Rico lost up to $40 billion in economic output and suffered another $55 billion in property damage. The island was already reeling from Hurricane Irma, which made indirect landfall on the island in late August.

That’s $95 billion in economic costs, roughly on par with an entire year of economic activity on Puerto Rico. The island territory’s output was about $100 billion in 2016.

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