In a significant stride toward fostering energy sustainability and cost reduction, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled a substantial commitment of up to $453.5 million hailing from the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund (PR-ERF). This funding aims to stimulate the widespread adoption of residential rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and battery storage systems throughout the region, with a dedicated emphasis on extending support to Puerto Rico’s most economically disadvantaged residents. The latest round of financial backing will encompass comprehensive consumer safeguards and educational initiatives, designed to facilitate the enduring utilization of solar infrastructure by local inhabitants. Additionally, a Solar Ambassador Prize will be instituted, incentivizing community groups to facilitate the identification and engagement of eligible households, thereby aligning with Puerto Rico’s overarching ambition of establishing a resilient energy grid powered exclusively by renewable sources.
In an enthusiastic statement, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm remarked, “A future powered by renewables will offer the residents of Puerto Rico more energy security and more reliability—all while leaving households with cheaper bills to pay. DOE is using every tool at our disposal to expand access to clean energy, especially for the communities most at risk, giving families the peace of mind knowing that their communities are resilient in the face of the climate crisis.”
The genesis of the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund can be traced back to December 2022 when President Biden enacted the Fiscal Year 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act. This legislation earmarked a substantial $1 billion to establish the PR-ERF, an ambitious endeavor designed to fortify energy resilience among Puerto Rico’s most susceptible households and communities. The fund’s objective dovetails with Puerto Rico’s formidable commitment to achieving 100% renewable energy consumption by 2050. The development and evolution of PR-ERF have been profoundly influenced by local collaborations and input, encompassing a formal Request for Information (RFI) issued in February 2023. Secretary Granholm’s consistent engagement with regional stakeholders has been marked by a series of strategic discussions, town hall meetings, and interactive community sessions.
The announcement heralds an inaugural funding opportunity made available through PR-ERF, amounting to a staggering $450 million. This allocation is meticulously structured to incentivize the installation of 30,000 to 40,000 solar PV and battery storage systems targeting economically disadvantaged single-family households. The beneficiaries of this initiative will include households situated in regions characterized by a high density of very low-income residents, grappling with recurrent and prolonged power outages. Additionally, families with members reliant on energy-dependent technologies, such as electric wheelchairs or at-home dialysis machines, will be prioritized.
Eligible applicants span a diverse spectrum, encompassing private industries, non-profit organizations, energy cooperatives, educational institutions, as well as state and local governmental entities. The allocated funding will also underpin consumer protection endeavors, facilitating ongoing system education, training, and support mechanisms for residents to embrace solar PV and battery storage technologies.
In conjunction with the FOA launch, the DOE introduces the Solar Ambassador Prize, a competitive initiative for local Puerto Rican organizations. Its purpose is to identify eligible households and facilitate their participation in the DOE’s residential solar PV and battery storage program by spring 2024. The DOE will allocate a total of $3.5 million to a maximum of 20 community groups in the region. These groups will engage vulnerable households eligible for solar PV and battery storage installations, receiving an initial $15,000 seed funding and supplementary compensation tied to the verified program enrollees, as determined by the DOE.