The aftermath of Hurricane Fiona has left Puerto Ricans concerned about the stability of their electrical infrastructures. Millions of citizens went days without access to electricity while the power grid was down. Many people are blaming LUMA Energy, the company that is in charge of the Puerto Rican electric grid. The company, in its opinion, has failed to live up to its promises and prepare for natural disasters. Economics expert Tom Sanzillo explained that LUMA is “doing a poor job with operations,” due to its inexperienced workforce.
However, a small group of people and businesses were able to access electricity, including people with rooftop solar panels. This sparked interest in increasing accessibility to solar energy for those who cannot afford or access rooftop solar panels. On November 1, private solar energy company Sunrun announced the start of a new project that will transform Puerto Rico’s electrical system by building a virtual power plant, where houses will be remotely connected to an energy source for easy access. As of now, over 7,000 homes equipped with solar panels and batteries will serve as the power source. These customers will be compensated for sharing stored energy with the virtual power plant.
This project was carefully selected by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) as a part of a slow response process implemented after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Additionally, in 2019, the Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act was passed to find an efficient and effective energy system. The Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB) concluded that virtual power plants solved Puerto Rico’s energy grid problems. Sunrun will start adding customers to the virtual power plant next year, and electricity should be available by 2024. Not only will this increase accessibility to electricity during times of crisis and reparation, but it will also promote the use of clean energy and prevent air pollution. Sunrun’s CEO, Mary Powell, said that it will create a “clean shared energy economy.”