The Department of Energy (DOE) is among several groups proposing a fix to Puerto Rico’s electrical grid that would cost much more than a sketchy contract that the island signed with a company in Montana.
New York’s state-run power utility and the DOE are pitching a nearly $17 billion fix to the island’s hurricane-ravaged grid. Puerto Rico signed a $300 million contract with Montana-based Whitefish Energy in October to rebuild the island’s power lines.
The proposal includes a suggestion that the island spend more than $300 million constructing residential solar panel. Whitefish’s contract was heavily scrutinized for both its cost and the company’s indirect connection to Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke.
“We are recommending the use of increased renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar and incorporating new distributed energy resource technologies, such as energy storage and microgrids to enable energy to become abundant, affordable, and sustainable to improve the way of life for the citizens of Puerto Rico,” the group wrote to Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Puerto Rico’s Ricardo Rosselló.
The cost of the proposal would also blow past Sen. Bernie Sanders’s $146 million plan to resuscitate the island’s infrastructure. The Vermont socialist’s goal is to have the 70 percent of the island running on solar and wind power within a decade — Republicans and others criticized the island’s bankrupt power utility.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which governs the island’s grid, has come under fire for what critics have deemed an ineffectual response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. PREPA was responsible for singing the deal allowing Whitefish to revamp the island’s infrastructure.
Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy in May and recently closed 200 schools to save $7 million, while simultaneously issuing 107 consulting contracts since January to questionable recipients, according to a report in September from The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Island officials spent more than $256 billion in federal funds from 1990 through 2009, but only collected $74 billion in tax revenue. The U.S. territory is required to prioritize its payments to creditors unless the funds go to essential services.
About $4.7 million in consulting contracts went to companies with ties to government officials, more than $800,000 of which were public relations groups. Consulting contracts totaling nearly $389,000 were awarded to the marketing firm KOI Americas, that is owned by Edwin Miranda, a friend of former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño.
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