Puerto Rico Energy Recovery and Resilience Updates

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) supports resiliency and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico by supporting planning, operational activities, and capacity building for both local public entities and federal agencies, ensuring investment decisions are driven by world-class data, modeling, and analysis. In this newsletter, the Grid Deployment office shares the latest milestones, updates, and highlights on this work.

Program Highlights and Announcements 

DOE and FEMA Host PR100 Public Webinar, Publish One-Year Progress Update 

Last month, DOE and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released a one-year progress report for the Puerto Rico Grid Resilience and Transition to 100% Renewable (PR100) Study. In February 2022, DOE joined FEMA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in launching the PR100 Study—a community-driven and locally tailored roadmap to help Puerto Rico meet its target of 100% renewable electricity, improve power sector resiliency, and increase access to affordable renewable energy on the island. 

During a webinar hosted in January 2023, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, and Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi provided updates on future goals for grid modernization on the Island, outlining their shared commitment to building resilient infrastructure and creating clean energy solutions.  Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) also presented four technically and economically sound energy deployment scenarios generated from the PR100 study to achieve Puerto Rico’s energy goals. 

Both the one-year report and six-month progress update (available English and in Spanish) were made possible by the continuing support of the PR100 Advisory Group, comprised of energy sector stakeholders who meet on a monthly basis to discuss local priorities such as energy justice, land use, desired project outcomes, and more. The Puerto Rico Grid Modernization Team will continue to refine the PR100 findings and draw on them to coordinate federal funding streams and overcome impediments to infrastructure deployment.

Energy Secretary Granholm Kicks Off Puerto Rico Road Tour

This year, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will participate in a Puerto Rico road tour to listen and learn about the issues impacting the island’s grid resilience and recovery. During this series of visits, townhalls, and listening sessions, DOE will listen to community members across the island to learn about their priorities for developing a more resilient electrical grid and jumpstarting vital projects ahead of the next hurricane season.  
On January 30, 2023, Secretary Granholm kicked off the road tour with a series of four community listening sessions across the island. The Secretary travelled to Salinas, Vieques, Culebra, and Loíza where she met with residents and community organizations and visited critical care facilities that are experiencing challenges and seeking local solutions to increase their energy solutions. The Secretary also congratulated the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Government of Puerto Rico for moving forward in the development of the Centro Medico microgrid, ensuring that critical medical services continue operating in the face of extreme weather events.   
The Secretary is expected to return to Puerto Rico in March 2023. 

Secretary Granholm at the PR100 community listening session in Vieques.

Secretary Granholm at the PR100 community listening session in Vieques.

President Biden Authorizes $1 Billion to Improve the Resilience of Puerto Rico’s Grid

Last December, President Biden signed the 2023 federal spending package into law, which included a $1 billion investment to improve the resilience of Puerto Rico's electric grid. This funding will be managed by the Grid Deployment Office to deploy high-impact solutions that improve power resilience for Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable residents, including through the purchase and installation of renewable energy like residential solar and storage.   

The Grid Deployment Office has heard from local leaders that communities want more direct access to renewable energy to increase their energy resilience, but the cost of these systems is often out of reach for low- and moderate-income households. GDO is working to develop this program effectively and efficiently to support a more reliable, affordable, and clean grid in Puerto Rico. We understand the urgency of this work, and we are committed to including local communities in the design and implementation of these critical projects.

In Case You Missed It

President Biden Visits Puerto Rico, Announces Creation of the DOE-led Puerto Rico Grid Recovery and Modernization Team

In October 2022, President Biden visited Puerto Rico two weeks after Hurricane Fiona hit the island. During his remarks, President Biden made a commitment to deploy and expedite more resources from the Department of Energy and other federal agencies to help transform Puerto Rico’s energy system. “The goal is lower energy bills and more reliable power for Puerto Rican households,” stated Biden. 

The President also tasked Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm with establishing the Puerto Rican Grid Recovery and Modernization Team to channel federal resources and technical assistance and additional support for Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rico Grid Modernization and Recovery Team will span multiple Federal agencies including DOE, HUD, and FEMA, as well as the national labs. The team will also work with relevant stakeholders in Puerto Rico, including the Puerto Rican government, the Puerto Rico Department of Housing, PREPA, LUMA, PREB and COR3.  

Agustin Carbo

Agustin Carbó, Director of the Puerto Rico Grid Modernization and Recovery Team

U.S. Department of Energy Appoints Agustín Carbó as Director of Puerto Rico Grid Modernization and Recovery Team

On November 2, 2022, the Department of Energy announced that Agustín Carbó will serve as the Director for the new Puerto Rico Grid Modernization and Recovery Team. U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm made the announcement during keynote remarks at the 6th annual Solar and Energy Storage Association of Puerto Rico Summit in San Juan.   

“It is simply unacceptable that in the 21st century, Puerto Ricans continue to bear the burden of an unreliable electrical grid because of obstacles to needed investments and delays to essential improvements,” said Secretary Granholm. “I am proud announce that Agustín Carbó, a son of Puerto Rico, has been selected to lead the grid recovery and modernization work on the island to help cut through unnecessary implementation barriers so that we can swiftly deliver a resilient and secure grid Puerto Ricans deserve.”   

Prior to this appointment, Carbó served as a Director for Energy Transition with the Environmental Defense Fund. Carbó will continue to reside in San Juan during his tenure as Director of the PR Grid Modernization and Recovery Team.   

NREL Publishes High-Resolution Wind Resource Data Set of the Greater Puerto Rico Region

In September 2022, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published “Wind Energy Costs in Puerto Rico Through 2035” as part of the Puerto Rico Grid Resilience and Transition to 100% Renewable Energy Study (PR100) initiative. The purpose of the publication was to:  

  1. Quantify the long-term wind resource in and around Puerto Rico (offshore and over land);  

  1. Conduct exploratory interviews with key stakeholders to better understand the unique challenges of deploying wind energy technologies in Puerto Rico; 

  1. Account for unique conditions in Puerto Rico to calculate costs, produce generation profiles, and provide technology information about land-based, fixed-bottom offshore, and floating offshore wind energy; 

  1. Provide cost, performance, and technical data to the government-owned utility and system operator to meet regulatory requirements to include wind resources in planning processes; and 

  1. Coordinate data sharing with other DOE studies, including the Puerto Rico Grid Resilience and Transitions to 100% Renewable Energy Study (PR100 Study). 

In December 2022, NREL also published a complimentary report entitled “High-Resolution Wind Resource Data Set of the Greater Puerto Rico Region.” As part of the renewable energy potential assessment in this report, NREL developed 20 years (2001–2020) of data using a numerical weather prediction model for land-based wind and offshore wind resource assessments for Puerto Rico. The 20 years of wind resource data will be made available through NREL and will support wind energy development considerations for the PR100 study. 

Electrical Grid Resilience and Assessment System Simulation of Hurrican Maria, Puerto Rico, 2017


DOE Delivers Hurricane Preparedness Tool to PREPA and LUMA

In August 2022, DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) delivered a solution for a more resilient power grid with its new platform, the Electrical Grid Resilience and Assessment System (EGRASS). 

EGRASS helps emergency managers better characterize storm impacts by simulating historical storm paths for a variety of different wind intensity estimates. These exercises are helping LUMA Energy managers plan ahead to repair transmission lines, substations, and other components in Puerto Rico, keeping them safe from upcoming weather threats. 

The Puerto Rico Energy Power Authority (PREPA) and LUMA Energy, the operator and administrator of the Transmission and Distribution System in Puerto Rico, are now using EGRASS to study and plan for extreme weather events and potential impacts on the grid, to better expose data gaps in the system, and to protect critical infrastructure. 

The development of this software was possible thanks to funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), helping the island better prepare for big storms in the future. 

Sandia Publishes Report on Optimal Portfolio Design of Distributed Energy Resources on Puerto Rico Distribution Feeders with Long Outages after Hurricane Maria 

In August 2022, Sandia National Laboratories published findings of a study seeking to identify reliable, resilient, and cost-effective networked distributed energy resources (DERs) for Puerto Rico. The study, performed in partnership with ProsumerGrid, consisted of modeling and simulation to design resilient and cost-effective networked microgrids on the distribution system, focusing on Puerto Rico feeder locations with long outages after Hurricane Maria.  

The key questions addressed in this study were:  

  • What investments in DERs are needed to meet the forecasted demand for the next 20 years while considering frequent and long grid outages?  
  • What types and capacities of these DER resources should be installed? And, 
  • What are the resulting total costs, benefits, and net present value of the DER portfolio selected? 

Based on the results, the team provided a set of final recommendations to inform decision making on how to conduct targeted planning analyses for microgrids that can supply energy to critical infrastructure.  

Researchers Bring More Reliable Electricity to Puerto Rican Microgrids

When Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico in 2017, winds snapped trees and destroyed homes, while heavy rains transformed streets into rivers. Five years later, power outages remain long and frequent. 

To provide more affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity to underserved communities on the island, scientists from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are partnering with local organizations, nonprofits, and universities to build resilience into independent microgrids powered by renewable energy.  

Microgrids are small networks that generally have their own energy supply from nearby renewable sources like wind and solar. If battery storage is added, microgrids can be isolated and function independently in “island mode” if the broader utility network fails. 

  This new technology, known as a microgrid orchestrator, will allow neighboring grids to communicate and export energy to each other, enhancing microgrids’ reliability even when damaged. While this new technology could have remarkable impacts in Puerto Rico, it also holds broader potential for the global future of microgrid resiliency and reliability. 

Solar Panel Installation in Puerto Rico

Solar panels installed on commercial buildings create independent microgrids in the municipality of Adjuntas, Puerto Rico. Credit: Fabio Andrade

Job Opportunity: GDO Program Manager, Territories and Recovery Team 

The Grid Deployment Office is seeking an experienced professional to lead its Territory and Recovery Program. The successful candidate will lead the implementation, growth, and strategic direction of the grid resilience funding in the U.S. territories – including a $1 billion program to improve grid resilience in Puerto Rico. We are seeking a Program Manager with experience leading a dispersed, diverse team in project planning.  We need a candidate who is eager to work collaboratively with a wide array of people; has strong written and oral communication skills; likes to solve problems in a fast-paced environment; and has a strong commitment to the mission, vision, and goals of the Department of Energy. Direct interface and management of principals is expected in this role both internal and external to DOE. Strong decision-making capabilities and willingness to dive into problems both big and small. Understanding and ability to navigate interagency relationships; political instinct and ability to make decision based on technical and political information required. Spanish language skills are mandatory. Familiarity with territory culture is a plus.  

If this sounds like you (or someone you know), apply now via the Department’s Clean Energy Corps at www.energy.gov/cleanenergycorps and use the referral code “#GDOPR”. To learn more about the position or to let us know you have applied, email GDORecruit@hq.doe.gov with the subject #GDOPR. 

Mobilize: Join Our New Online Community 

Stay in touch by joining our new online community – PR Energy Recovery and Resilience – on the Mobilize platform! Here, you can receive updates from DOE and the PR100 team, share information related to Puerto Rico’s energy transition, and connect with other stakeholders to implement the pathway to 100% renewable energy. Register here to join the community.