Critical Facilities Launch New Model to Build Energy Resilience in Puerto Rico

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The Community Energy Resilience Initiative (CERI), a collaboration between Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico, RMI, and the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), with support from Enel North America, presents a new model for scale equitable access to resilient resources. , renewable energy.

Photo credit: MRI

Arecibo, Puerto Rico — June 9, 2022.

Today, the Puerto Rico Community Energy Resilience Initiative (CERI) celebrates the first three microgrid solar and storage systems, part of a new model of local energy resilience. The blended grant and loan finance model, which is the first of its kind in the Caribbean, opens up access to clean and affordable energy in low- to middle-income communities, improving the energy resilience of critical facilities and enabling them to remain operational and in service. their city in times of crisis. The CERI team plans to scale to approximately 350 critical facilities in Puerto Rico with the goal of unleashing the power of blended finance to foster equitable energy resilience in other countries, states, and cities around the world.

Energy resilience is critical in the region as hurricanes continue to intensify and increase in frequency, causing immense devastation including power outages. Local energy systems enable the continuity of essential services, including health care, education, food and transportation, during main grid outages.

CERI’s approach was tested with three critical facilities in Arecibo, Patillas and Utuado. Working with the CERI team, each facility was able to design and install a community-owned solar microgrid and storage system tailored to their energy needs.

“Since Hurricane María in 2017, service disruptions have been common, compromising community access to essential services such as healthcare and affecting economic development. The CERI model allows Puerto Rican communities to have confidence in their continued access to energy and to take advantage of cost savings,” said David Haddock, Vice President of Administration and Programs at Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico. (FCPR).

Photo credit: MRI

The three pilot facilities were selected following a merit-based process focusing 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 annually, providing educational and social services to the elderly, homeless, women, and children. The IPVI served as a key recovery point in Arecibo after Hurricane María, ensuring the distribution of much-needed aid to the community. “Having continuous power means our equipment can keep running, keep food going, and we can keep crucial services available to the communities we serve, many of whom depend on us for their livelihoods,” said Nilsa López, Founder. and CEO of IPVI.

The Valentín gas station, located in Mameyes, Utuado, the only gas station and mini-supermarket in the region, provides services to five neighboring communities far from urban centers. “We are the only company of this type in this region. This is where locals get fuel to get to work and food for their families. Our presence and ability to function, especially in times of crisis, is extremely important. said Francisco Valentín, owner of the Valentín gas station.

Jomari Pharmacy is a community pharmacy located in Patillas, providing computer and printing services in addition to medication sales, delivery and consultation. “A specific solar panel system has been designed for Farmacia Jomari to allow us to operate if another natural disaster occurs. In an emergency, Farmacia Jomari will be able to continue serving the community,” said Marissa Carrasquillo, owner of Jomari Pharmacy.

This model simultaneously addresses another key issue affecting Puerto Rico and the region: dramatic increases in energy prices. CERI uses an innovative and 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 funded by a combination of local grants and a major donation from clean energy leader Enel North America. “With IPVI, this is not only an opportunity to strengthen the Arecibo community through energy resilience, but also to further develop economic and technical skills,” says Jesse Puckett, Director of Sustainability Projects and Business communities of Enel. “As part of IPVI’s workforce development efforts, Enel is delighted to support skills training in renewable energy for the local community.”

The participating financial institutions for the three pilot critical installations 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, Islands Energy Program Manager. of RMI. “This blended finance model in Puerto Rico was created and executed not only to overcome critical barriers to scaling access to resilient, carbon-free energy, but also to ensure that facilities currently paying more than double the average electricity price in the United States achieves significant savings from day one.”

“By working with Puerto Rican communities to identify and eliminate existing financial and knowledge barriers, the CERI model paves the way for an equitable scale of local energy resilience benefits in Puerto Rico and in vulnerable communities around the world,” said said Clare Boland Ross, head of program strategy and impact for the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet. “As climate change makes severe weather events more frequent, improving inclusive access to reliable and renewable energy in underserved communities is even more essential for energy security and community resilience.”

The CERI team plans to develop a demonstration portfolio of 20-40 projects, carried out in coordination with local financial institutions, to further develop this model and gain the efficiency needed to equitably spread the benefits of energy resilience more widely. CERI is looking for partners to join the effort and provide support.

For those interested in supporting or collaborating with CERI, please email CERI@rmi.org.

Courtesy of MRI.


 


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