First three solar + storage microgrids in the works for Puerto Rico resilience initiative

The Puerto Rico Community Energy Resilience Initiative (CERI) is celebrating the construction kickoff of three microgrid solar + storage systems, part of a new model for local energy resilience. The projects under construction now include a total of 132 kW of solar and 108 kWh of storage.

The grant-and-loan-blended finance model, which is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, unlocks access to clean, affordable energy in low-to middle-income communities, improving energy resilience at critical facilities, and enabling them to stay operational and service their town during times of crisis. The CERI team plans to scale to approximately 350 critical facilities in Puerto Rico with the goal of unlocking the power of blended finance to drive equitable energy resilience in other countries, states and cities globally.

Energy resilience is critical in the region as hurricanes continue to intensify and increase in frequency, bringing with them immense devastation including power blackouts. Local energy systems allow for the continuity of essential services, including healthcare, education, food and transportation, during main grid outages.

CERI’s approach has been piloted with three critical facilities in Arecibo, Patillas and Utuado. In collaboration with CERI partners, each facility was able to design and will install a community-owned solar + storage microgrid system tailored to meet their energy needs.

“Since Hurricane María in 2017, service interruptions are common, jeopardize community access to essential services such as healthcare, and affect economic development. The CERI model allows for Puerto Rican communities to have faith in their continuous access to energy and take advantage of cost savings,” said David Haddock, VP of administration and programs of Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico (FCPR).

The three pilot facilities were selected after a merit-based process that focused on their role in the community and services provided during outages.

  • Instituto Pre Vocational E Industrial (IPVI) serves nearly 2,000 students and community members a year, offering educational and social services to the elderly, homeless, and women and children. IPVI served as a key recovery point in Arecibo after Hurricane María, ensuring much needed aid was distributed to the community.
  • Valentin Service Station, located in Mameyes, Utuado, the only gas station and mini supermarket in the area, provides services to five neighboring communities that are far from urban centers.
  • Jomari Pharmacy is a community drug store located in Patillas, providing computer and printing services in addition to selling, delivering, and consulting on medication.

This model simultaneously addresses another key issue affecting Puerto Rico and the region: dramatic energy price increases. CERI uses an innovative, scalable blended finance model accessible to low- and middle-income businesses and nonprofits, in combination with technical assistance and community engagement. The IPVI project will be financed through a combination of local grants and a large donation from clean energy leader Enel North America.

The participating financial institutions for the three pilot critical facilities are Banco Popular and CooPACA.

“As we reimagine Puerto Rico’s fragile energy system, it is crucial to ensure that communities particularly vulnerable to power outages have reliable, affordable, and clean energy,” said Michael Liebman, manager with RMI’s Islands Energy Program. “This blended finance model in Puerto Rico was created and executed not only to address critical barriers to scaling resilient, carbon-free energy access, but also to ensure that facilities that currently pay over double the US average price of electricity see significant savings from day one.”

The CERI team plans to expand to a demonstration portfolio of 20 to 40 projects, done in coordination with local financial institutions, to further develop this model and gain the efficiency needed to equitably scale the benefits of energy resilience more broadly. CERI is seeking partners to join the effort and provide support.

News item from Enel

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