The Federal Government and PREPA Must do Better for Puerto Rico

Statement from Daniel Whittle, Senior Director, Caribbean Initiatives, Environmental Defense Fund

January 8, 2020
Debora Schneider, (212) 616-1377,

(NEW YORK, NY) While Puerto Rico struggles to recover from a recent spate of earthquakes, the strongest one a category 6.4 on the Richter scale, the Trump Administration is holding back funds Congress appropriated for the island almost a year ago. The money, under the jurisdiction of the Housing and Urban Development Administration, was intended to support recovery and redevelopment in Puerto Rico in the wake of 2017’s Hurricane Maria. 

Most of the island has now been without electricity for more than 36 hours. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) has returned electricity to half a million residents throughout the island and has promised to restore service to the other 2.5 million residents quickly, but it may take weeks for some Puerto Ricans to get their power back. The island’s principal power plants, Costa Sur and EcoEléctrica, were damaged and nearly 300,000 residents are experiencing water shortages. Given the vulnerabilities of Puerto Rico’s electric grid after Hurricane Maria, there is an urgent need to transform its electric grid into a more modern, resilient and distributed energy system.

“Hurricane Maria taught us that Puerto Rico needs to be prepared to withstand catastrophic events by having an electric system that can support its residents and their needs. These recent earthquakes are proof that much remains to be done. Local leaders must take action now to improve the rules that ensure reliable, affordable electricity, and build resiliency in Puerto Rico’s communities.”

“FEMA’s presence in Puerto Rico at the moment is only a temporary measure. The real difference in building resilient communities and providing a long-term solution to the island’s energy crisis needs to come from federal funds that have yet to be released. It’s dirty politics to withhold money intended to protect people’s lives in a time of crisis; the Trump administration should release these resilience funds immediately.”

Environmental Defense Fund is developing an innovative project to demonstrate the feasibility of incorporating distributed energy resources, through systems such as microgrids, into the system. These mini-energy service stations fuel up on solar power and run backed by battery storage and intelligent software, while reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Linked to the larger grid — ensuring the delivery of affordable, clean and reliable energy every day — these systems can be designed to also separate from the grid during emergencies to keep the lights on in remote parts of the island. For more information, visit

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