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In Maria's Wake, Could Puerto Rico Go Totally Green?

In Maria's Wake, Could Puerto Rico Go Totally Green?

Edit Views In Maria's Wake, Could Puerto Rico Go Totally Green?

Harvey Wasserman

In a sun-drenched eco-system, renewable energy would foster incredible opportunity and help protect the island from it's next natural disaster.

The article about hospitals described renewable energy power purchase agreements with the energy supplied through the grid, and the ebay data center example used the grid to smooth out the solar power fluctuations. Both examples depended on the grid, and for Puerto Rico to do likewise will require a grid rebuild. Neither was an example of either a microgrid or localized battery backup–even though lucrative hospitals and tech giant data centers could probably afford battery storage far more than the general population of Puerto Rico.

Like the hospitals in the article, Puerto Rico power has also entered into nearly 70 renewable energy power purchase agreements since 2010, but only 11 of the contracts were fulfilled. Their 2010 renewable energy law required electricity to be 15% renewable by 2015. As of the year ending last June, the actual proportion was only up to 2.4%–and most of that was from their 11 hydro facilities.

To be able to build out a renewable energy infrastructure is going to take money, and they will not be able to finance this by saving the cost of rebuilding the grid. They are going to have to rebuild the grid, and continue paying inflated prices for dirty fuel they don’t want to use, and then try to do any renewable energy purchases or infrastructure investments on top of that while also dealing with the pressures of sliding deeper into debt. Puerto Rico would love to shift to cleaner and especially cheaper energy, and they’ve been trying to do so for years. They haven’t made appreciable progress, not because there’s no will, or no knowledge of greener options, but because they don’t have the financial resources.

The single greatest thing that could be done to help stand Puerto Rico back up and give it the footing it needs to make energy and infrastructure investments is to repeal the archaic 1910 Jones Maritime Act–which has enabled a cartel of basically three predatory shipping companies to suck hundreds of millions per year out of Puerto Rico. Not only have the racketeering losses accumulated to an amount greater than Puerto Rico’s cumulative debt, but that theft prevented investments which could have netted returns, to say nothing of social benefits. That act has also prevented Puerto Rico from setting up a shipping industry of their own–something which could help to address their dire unemployment problem (a gift from the Clinton administration).

Or, we could just give them advice to do what for years they’ve been trying to do, and leave it to them to figure out how while the parasites protected by Jones continue to bleed them dry.


Excellent reply. I think though that the only way that Puerto Rico can get the money to rebuild and end the Jones-Maritime Act is to secede from the U.S. Puerto Ricans have never been happy with the U.S. from the beginning anyway as the laws and politicians have always favoured a few wealthy elite while ignoring the 99%. If Puerto Rico let’s say joined a more developed country like Canada or Spain, they could get the funding they need to be fossil fuel free while negotiating many additional benefits as well such as universal healthcare, no more money for the military, higher taxes on the rich, universal basic income and a more democratic system of government.
Now is an ideal time for Puerto Rico to secede from the U.S. as America’s President is in free fall unable to address any problems with aplomb especially as his allegiance to the 1% never wavers.
It’s referendum time and the country must secede if they wish to get any respect in the future.


These devastated islands must be allowed to grow industrial help.
I doubt there are too man sky scrapers in the area.
All low rise buildings can be built with thick hempcrete walls, which more than compensate for reinforced concrete wall for steel and heat resistance.

Also, they will not have to wait centuries for steel to arrive via ships. I am not sure if lime is locally available.

They will be using less electricity if they build stronger walls with more r value.

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Sitting as it does in the trade wind belt with very consistent 24-hour wind, plus abundant tropical sunshine, it makes absolute no sense at all that Puerto Rico could not use this as an opportunity to convert to 100 percent renewables. But “micro grids” are not a good way to go because the amount of renewable energy varies greatly over both time and geography across the island. This would leave some communities consigned to energy-poverty all of the time, and all communities some of the time.

There is nothing “evil” about a interconnected grid! In fact it is a vital aspect of renewables development. This uniquely USAn aversion to interconnected grids seems to have its origins in USAn capitalist-cowboy-individualism that has been the biggest impediment to so many other forms of progress in the USA.

Are you serious? I think you need a broader historical view of Puerto Rico especially as it relates to Spain.

The hospitals though are more vulnerable and need a reliable emergency energy source. Every hospital in America has this type of planning. Who is to say that some areas could not be designed as low energy needs. Exactly right about the abundance of natural energy sources. It could be very beneficial to the island.

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It seems like every few years, they have some kind of vote on what direction they would like to take, but the results are usually very mixed with some wanting statehood, some wanting independence, and a few wanting affiliation with some other country. But these votes are always non-binding so the results are academic. The one thing there is general agreement on is that the present arrangement sucks. As I see it, there are two big obstacles to statehood. One is that the majority language is Spanish. The other is that 51 is not a tidy number, and it would mess up our flag. But I also don’t see the U.S. letting go of a plaything it considers its own property without a fight.

There are a lot of people in Puerto Rico who like being U.S. citizens and like being part of our economy. I bet that number would go up by a lot if Jones were rescinded, and even more if some of the business and manufacturing incentives Clinton took away were reinstated. And we don’t have to give them full statehood in order to let them have some representation and participation in national elections. I don’t see why U.S. citizens living abroad should have more voting rights than U.S. citizens living in a U.S. territory.

Now there’s a solution I could get behind.

Yeah, why do they have more voting rights? The one advantage they do have is the ability to move to the US absent the draconian Trump Muslim ban. Just as Michael Klare predicted a decade ago, mass migration will be the first nation distressing symptom of global warming. We are now seeing the beginnings of a mass migration of people out of the areas most susceptible to global warming.catastrophes.

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Well not absent of but, without being restricted by.

Gah. Memory glitch. The Jones Maritime Act was enacted in 1920, not 1910.

They should forget about the debt and start fixing the island we are Americans citizens since 1917 and have fought in alot of wars for united states and now we really need alot of help


This is a great approach. Keep the plants that have not been significantly damaged and build the plants necessary with renewable distributed energy. The result is a resilient energy network ready for the next storm. Building a renewable distribution network is cheaper than rebuilding destroyed generation and transmission lines. Plus it goes up a lot faster. The components in generation and substation take years to contract and build (no spares any where).

Yes, that is why hospitals have emergency backup generators.

What is your point? There is nothing more solidaristic than an interconnected grid so energy can be shared among all generators and users. Why is the US left opposed to this?

The problem is that the plants themselves are probably not damaged - only the power lines are.

The trouble is, the Jones Act also protects union US maritime workers from predatory competitors who employ slave seamen on decrepit flag-of-convenience ships.

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I am not against it but I think there has to be the consideration in a geographic area as Puerto Rico where there is a potential of complete loss. there may be an advantage in restructuring.

I find it interesting that the big push to dump the Jones Act is coming from the standard propaganda outlets like the NY Times and NPR, and is being pushed by the Heritage foundation and the Cato Institute and the other aholes. This is classic disaster capitalism using the disaster to divert attention from what is actually going on. The Jones Act is not stopping disaster relief from getting to the island, it was a deliberate lack of attention by the Trump administration to create a crisis where they could point the finger at pro union legislation as the problem. As of yesterday there were about 9000 containers of relief supplies sitting in the Port of San Juan that had been sitting on ships and barges that could not be unloaded due to logistic snafus…lack of trucks, lack of drivers, lack of fuel, roads leading in and out of the port and San Juan being blocked…but somehow it is the fault of the Jones Act that supplies are not reaching the people. The US Navy should have had supplies and helicopters down there in the days after the disaster, but it did not happen and that is the big question.

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51 is very tidy…3x17=51 which would make a star pattern of 3 rows of 9 and 3 rows of 8 or 27+24=51, or maybe you just don’t like change.