In September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused most of the transmission and distribution system in Puerto Rico to collapse, leading to one of the longest blackouts in U.S. history and leaving residents in some parts of the territory without electricity for almost a year. Puerto Rico's communications, water and wastewater, transportation, healthcare, and critical manufacturing sectors similarly experienced severe disruptions—in most cases caused by electricity infrastructure damage or existing issues being exacerbated by the underlying instability of the grid.

Recovery planning in the following years has identified numerous lessons related to enhancing infrastructure resilience in Puerto Rico, including building system redundancy, eliminating single points of failure, supporting decentralized strategies, and improving interagency coordination, all with the goals of mitigating the risks of future disruptions and strengthening confidence in Puerto Rico's infrastructure. Further, the Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act of 2019 (Act 17-2019) establishes a renewable energy target of 100% by 2050 and requires the government-owned utility to aggressively reduce the use of fossil fuels, minimize greenhouse gas emissions, and support initiatives in Puerto Rico that focus on mitigation, adaptation, and resilience. These statutory goals for the energy sector align with the priorities of President Biden’s Executive Orders (EO) related to resilience to climate change, including EO 13990: Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis, and EO14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.

Leveraging Technical Assistance for Energy Recovery

While the hurricanes caused unimaginable devastation on the island, part of the unprecedented federal response was the authorization of historical amounts of federal recovery funding specifically earmarked for the energy sector, totaling over $12B from both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) role in Puerto Rico's energy recovery is to:

  • Leverage its network of National Laboratories to supply advanced planning and modeling capabilities.
  • Serve as a trusted unbiased convener and coordinator among the major energy stakeholders.
  • Enable investment decisions to be driven by world-class data, modeling, and analysis.
  • Ensure that funded recovery actions adhere to industry best practices, are coordinated across sectors, and align with energy public policy.
  • Support the development of the next generation energy sector workforce in Puerto Rico.

One initiative within DOE’s portfolio of support for Puerto Rico is the Puerto Rico Grid Resilience and Transitions to 100% Renewable Energy Study (PR100), 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 more affordable energy and cleaner air.

On February 2, 2022, DOE joined the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to announce a new effort to accelerate work to strengthen the island’s grid resilience and advance new initiatives to enhance Puerto Rico’s energy future. The parties executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that enhances collaboration among Federal agencies and the Commonwealth.

Current Activities

Microgrid Design and Analysis
This activity focuses on assessing distributed energy solutions in response to resilience events, such as hurricanes.
Renewable Energy Integration
Solar and energy storage technologies will play a significant role in achieving Puerto Rico's resilience and renewable energy goals.
Integrated Planning
This technical domain will include analysis of transmission, distribution, and microgrids with the focus of addressing grid resilience planning across Puerto Rico.
Capacity Building
For sustainable solutions, it is vital to empower communities with knowledge and to involve them in the development process.

DOE's Office of Electricity (OE) manages this effort and the activities being conducted by the six laboratories listed below. 

Resources

DOE and the six National Laboratories provide publications, tools, webinars, and other resources as part of their role to offer technical assistance to federal and local stakeholders. Explore these resources below.

Project Publications

Quantifying the Solar Energy Resource for Puerto Rico, NREL Technical Report (2021)

Considerations for Distributed Energy Resource Integration in Puerto Rico, NREL Technical Report (2021)

Optimized Control of Distribution Switches to Balance a Low Cost Photovoltaic Microgrid, Sandia Conference Paper (2021)

Risk-Based Dynamic Contingency Analysis Applied to Puerto Rico Electric Infrastructure, PNNL Technical Report (2020)

Data Requirements for Application of Risk-Based Dynamic Contingency Analysis to Evaluate Hurricane Impact to Electrical Infrastructure in Puerto Rico, PNNL Conference Paper (2020)

Puerto Rico: Emerging Opportunities for Energy Efficiency and Equitable Clean Energy Development, 21st ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings (2020). To view this paper, select 'Table of Contents', then "Panel 9', then select the PDF icon under the paper title.

Interconnection Requirements for Renewable Generation and Energy Storage: Puerto Rico Example: Preprint, NREL Conference Paper (2019)

Puerto Rico Energy Planning Resources Workshop Report, NREL Technical Report (2019)

Solar Resource and Technical Potential Modeling, NREL Presentation (2019)

Workshop on Energy Planning Resources for Puerto Rico, NREL Presentation (2019)

Infrastructure Interdependency Assessment: Puerto Rico, DHS Assessment Report prepared by ANL (2018)

Analysis of Microgrid Locations Benefitting Community Resilience, Sandia Technical Report (2018) Energy Resilience for Puerto Rico, Sandia Presentation (2018)

Tools

DCAT (Dynamic Contingency Analysis Tool)—DCAT bridges gaps in cascading outage analysis in a single, unique tool that automatically simulates and analyzes cascading sequences in real systems. DCAT incorporates the complexity of the power system networks by leveraging and complementing industry-grade datasets and tools. (PNNL)

Distributed Energy Resources Customer Adoption Model (DER-CAM)—A decision support tool that primarily serves the purpose of finding optimal distributed energy resource (DER) investments in the context of either buildings or multi-energy microgrids. (LBNL)

EGRASS (Electrical Grid Resilience and Assessment System)—EGRASS visualizes storms and their effects on the Puerto Rican bulk electric power grid system, and derives sequences of damage and outages with associated probabilities to enter in power grid extreme event analysis tools like DCAT. EGRASS also provides initial recommendations for technologies to improve grid resiliency at the distribution level. (PNNL)

Engage™—A modeling tool that makes cross-sectoral energy system planning and simulation easier and more accessible. (NREL)

Interruption Cost Estimation (ICE) Calculator—The ICE calculator is a web-based tool that provides decision makers with information they need to analyze the economic costs of power interruptions. Based on more than 20 years of utility-sponsored surveys on the costs of power interruptions to customers. (LBNL)

Microgrid Design Toolkit (MDT)—A decision support software for microgrid designers. Intended for use in the early stages of the design process, MDT uses powerful search algorithms to identify and characterize alternative microgrid design decisions in terms of user-defined objectives such as cost, performance, and reliability. (SNL)

National Solar Radiation Database—A collection of meteorological and solar irradiance data sets for the United States and a growing list of international locations. (NREL)

Puerto Rico Energy Efficiency Scenario Analysis Tool—An energy efficiency scenario analysis spreadsheet tool. (NREL)

Puerto Rico Demand Response Impact and Forecast Tool (PR-DRIFT)—Use this tool to estimate potential impacts to the load profile of demand response, energy efficiency, variable renewable energy, and storage adoption. NREL developed spreadsheet-based tool with customizable user inputs to help decision makers explore feasible future pathways to reduce territorywide electricity peak consumption. (NREL)

Puerto Rico Infrastructure Interdependency Assessment (PRIIA) Dashboard—PRIIA is a network analysis tool that leverages service area modeling of critical infrastructure (e.g., electricity, communications, water, and wastewater) to screen for interdependent connections between different asset types and simulate potential propagations of cascading failures across those interdependent assets. The results can help stakeholders understand where single points of failure or disruptions highly-leveraged assets may scale up a crisis, and how prioritized response, recovery, and hazard mitigation investments and activities can reduce the cumulative impacts of future emergency events. (ANL)

PVWatts Calculator—A calculator that estimates the energy production and cost of energy of grid-connected PV energy systems throughout the world. Versión en español disponible en el enlace. (NREL)

REopt—A decision-support tool used to optimize energy systems for buildings, campuses, communities, and microgrids. (NREL)

SUPRA—A user-friendly Microsoft Excel-based pro-forma electric utility financial model that can be used to better assess an island utility’s opportunities to manage, mitigate, and/or improve its financial situation, and to quantify the financial impacts from pursuing changes to its regulatory and business model. (LBNL)

System Advisor Model—A free computer program that calculates a renewable energy system's hourly energy output over a single year, and the cost of energy for a renewable energy project over the life of the project. Includes mini-grid capabilities relevant to Puerto Rico systems, and Spanish-language resources Introducción a SAM (Modelo para Asesoría de Sistemas), Guía de introducción del SAM BORRADOR, and SAM template file. (NREL)