Puerto Rico to officially go 100% renewable

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It is a cleaner morning than ever, or at least it will be soon in Puerto Rico, as the island’s legislature has given final approval to Senate Bill 1121. Now all that’s left for the bill is its anticipated signing by Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who just happens to be a strong proponent of 100% renewable energy.

SB 1121 establishes a 100% renewable energy renewable portfolio standard (RPS) by 2050. What’s more is that this isn’t your standard RPS policy. SB 1121 also bans coal plants starting in 2028, institutes a maximum 90-day utility approval period for commercial and industrial solar projects, establishes automatic interconnection to the grid for residential solar systems under 25 kW and exempts energy storage systems from sales taxes.

As it is with any good plan, it’s not just like the island nation expects to wake up in 31 years and be magically 100% renewable, either, as the bill introduces benchmarks to be hit along the way. The primary figures are marks of 40% renewables by 2025 and 60% by 2040.

The lead-up to and development of SB 1121 was largely influenced by the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. During the recovery from that storm, which left some parts of the island without power for as many as 11 months, consensus began to rise that a fossil fuel-fired, centralized energy system was not going to power the island’s future.

Decentralization may be a utility’s least-favorite concept to hear, particularly with regard to distributed solar. For the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, these — well, they aren’t quite nightmares, but you get the idea — are on the precipice of becoming reality. The company has already released a draft plan to break the island’s main grid into a series of “mini-grids,” but regulators were not pleased with the plan’s disregard for distributed solar, so it was sent back to include a greater role for distributed systems.

So, to the surprise of no one, the renewable train keeps on rolling. Puerto Rico will soon join New Mexico, California, Hawaii and Washington D.C. as the fifth state-level jurisdiction to establish a 100% zero-carbon and/or renewable energy mandate by 2050. Today the chorus rings true once again that the nation’s renewable energy revolution will come and it will come at the state, or nearly-state level.