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The federal Department of Energy promises “more robust collaboration” in the reconstruction of the electrical network of Puerto Rico

Following instructions given by President Joe Biden, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) intends to have a “more robust collaboration” in the reconstruction of the electrical system of Puerto Rico, in the face of “the problems with the reliability and resilience of the network.”

It is an effort that will involve various offices of the United States government, according to federal administration officials, when asked for an explanation of the meaning of President Biden’s decision to task the Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholmset up a team to speed up the modernization of the electrical system.

“Federal agencies have always played an advisory role, but following Monday’s instructions from President Biden, the agencies will now collaborate more robustly in building Puerto Rico’s clean energy infrastructure,” a DOE official said.

Details are still missing.

But, the Biden administration official stated that “the Puerto Rico Grid Modernization Team will support Puerto Rico in rebuilding an electrical grid that is more resilient, safer and, in accordance with the Puerto Rico energy law, Rich, capable of supporting 100% clean electricity by 2050″.

“The team will work with other agencies, including FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), HUD (the Department of Housing), and (the Department of) Commerce, to coordinate resources from across the federal government and ensure that funds be used quickly and strategically to better serve the network and the people of Puerto Rico,” said Karine Jean Pierre, White House Press Secretary.

With the exception of the Department of Commerce, these are the same offices of the federal government that signed a memorandum of understanding with Governor Pedro Pierluisi last February to develop the Puerto Rico 100 plan, which directs the Island towards a system based 100% on renewable energy sources.

The DOE official stated that they will seek to “coordinate resources and better access federal funds in an expeditious and strategic manner.” “Secretary Granholm will work closely with Governor Pierluisi to help identify and overcome impediments to the rapid deployment of infrastructure to provide the island with clean and reliable energy.”

From Congress, Democratic leaders have enthusiastically welcomed Biden’s intention to press to speed up projects aimed at modernizing the electrical grid, which are a clear reflection of the slow process of reconstruction in Puerto Rico. But, there are questions about how the Biden administration will implement its goals.

“I am pleased to hear that the DOE will intensify its efforts to help Puerto Rico transform its energy system dependent on fossil fuels into one that is cleaner, more reliable and more affordable,” said the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. down, Raul Grijalva.

Democrat Grijalva has a public hearing on the agenda – which was to take place last Friday – precisely to supervise the crisis in the electrical system and the general reconstruction process that began after Hurricane Maria.

Following Biden’s announcement, Grijalva urged the DOE to prioritize “the most vulnerable households during natural disasters, including low-income families and households with people with disabilities.”

“The people of Puerto Rico are facing climate change head-on: they deserve an energy system that can help them weather the storm,” said Grijalva, who praised President Biden’s trip to the island, which took place 15 days after the Hurricane Fiona hit.

In his trip of just over three hours to Puerto Rico, Biden reported that Secretary Granholm will launch a team with the task of accelerating the reconstruction of the electrical network, whose crisis has once again become evident after Hurricane Fiona.

Puerto Rican Democratic congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (New York) told El Nuevo Día that Secretary Granholm will have the task of promoting “the execution” of the works. She has insisted that the reconstruction process requires more technical training and cutting red tape, but not more colonialism.

On Tuesday night, in an interview on Playing Hard Ball, Velázquez criticized LUMA Energy’s lack of transparency and accountability, even in the face of demands from Congress.

The federal government has set aside about $11.4 billion to rebuild the power grid. Of those, some $9.5 billion were authorized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since September 2020. Until a few weeks ago, only $183 million of projects presented by LUMA Energy and the Electric Power Authority (PREPA) had been approved. ).

The other $1,932 million would be granted by HUD and should be used by the government of Puerto Rico to match costs.

The Comptroller General’s Office (GAO), in a report presented to Congress in September, warned of friction between FEMA and LUMA Energy, and between that federal agency and municipalities. “What nobody wants on the Island is for it to be another layer of federal bureaucracy,” said Resident Commissioner in Washington, Jenniffer González, who is holding caucuses with the Republicans, regarding Biden’s announcement.

González warned that it remains to be seen if President Biden intends to sign an executive order to regulate the decision to place Secretary Granholm at the head of the federal government team aimed at accelerating the modernization of the network. But, he maintained that it will be essential to maintain “control, so that we really have an electrical system, at least stable, because what we have is not stable.”

“Each level of government must agree to help rebuild Puerto Rico better,” Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres (New York) said on Twitter, who presented a resolution in the federal lower house that urges federal agencies to accelerate the modernization of the electrical network.

Moments after his message at Puerto Las Américas, President Biden met at the Sor Isolina Ferré Centers with leaders from six community organizations. “He spoke to us in general terms about his commitment to renewable energy,” said the president of the Hispanic Federation, Frankie Miranda, who organized the meeting in which the director of his organization on the island, Charlotte Gossett Navarro, participated; Ruth Santiago, from Ideabajo; Adi Martínez Roman, Fury; Luis Ortiz, chief executive officer of the Sor Isolina Ferré Centers; Elizabeth Colon of Ponce Neighborhood Housing Services; and Mirna Lebrón, vice president of the Peces project.

The community leaders warned that what the government authorities are doing is not enough to direct an energy system based on renewable energy sources. Santiago, when the group took a photo with Biden, showed a sign that indicated #FueraLUMA and #QueremosSol.

“We are committed to continuing the conversation,” Miranda said.

For his part, the former senator of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) Ramón Luis Nieves, who chaired the Senate Energy Commission, warned that the United States Department of Energy does not have executive functions towards the electrical systems of states and territories. “If the function is to be advisory, we cannot expect much. The added value would be if they are going to pressure FEMA, HUD, to reduce the bureaucracy,” said Nieves, affirming that it would still be necessary to solve the bureaucracy of the Puerto Rico government.

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