In a significant development, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled an initiative to provide rooftop solar and battery storage systems to vulnerable households in Puerto Rico. The initiative, supported by the Puerto Rico Energy Resilience Fund (PR-ERF), has been allocated up to $440 million in its first tranche. This funding aims to reduce energy costs for 30,000 to 40,000 single-family households in Puerto Rico, bolster their energy resilience, and ensure uninterrupted power supply during extreme weather events. Furthermore, the project is set to create numerous clean energy jobs locally, aligning with President Biden’s mission to lower energy expenses for all Americans and Puerto Rico’s goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050. The installation of these systems is expected to commence in the spring of 2024.
This announcement comes roughly one year after President Biden entrusted U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm with forming the DOE’s Puerto Rico Grid Recovery and Modernization Team. This locally-led intergovernmental task force is dedicated to fortifying the region’s grid resilience and expediting the deployment of infrastructure that delivers clean, reliable, and affordable power to the people of Puerto Rico.
Secretary Granholm commented on the initiative, stating, “With this announcement, we take a critical step forward in our efforts to ensure that all Puerto Rico residents have reliable electricity, especially the most vulnerable families and communities for whom a lack of power can be life or death. Plain and simple, this investment will save lives, all while providing local, good-paying jobs and advancing Puerto Rico’s clean energy transition.”
This announcement marks the first set of selections from the 2023 PR-ERF Funding Opportunity Announcement, which Secretary Granholm introduced in Puerto Rico in July 2023. Eligible beneficiaries of the installed systems will include very low-income, single-family households located in areas with a high percentage of very low-income households and frequent, prolonged power outages, as well as residents with energy-dependent disabilities.
The DOE has chosen three qualified solar companies with an existing workforce in Puerto Rico and five qualified nonprofits and cooperatives in the region to initiate award negotiations for a total of $440 million aimed at deploying residential solar systems to vulnerable Puerto Rican households. The selected companies are Generac Power Systems, Inc., Sunnova Energy Corporation, and Sunrun, Inc. The nonprofits and cooperatives entering award negotiations are Barrio Eléctrico, Comunidad Solar Toro Negro, Inc., Environmental Defense Fund, Let’s Share the Sun Foundation, and Solar United Neighbors, Inc.
Additionally, the DOE plans to announce selectees for the PR-ERF’s $3.85 million Solar Ambassador Prize and the remaining $10 million under the PR-ERF Funding Opportunity Announcement by the end of 2023. These funds will support outreach, education, training, and consumer protection for qualified households. The Solar Ambassador Prize will involve collaboration with up to 20 community organizations to identify qualifying households and assist them in the intake process for residential solar installations.