In February of 2018, at the time when more than half a million people were without power and thousands were without adequate drinking water, The Open Society Foundation announced a new ‘Mayor Exchange’ initiative to connect local mayors in Puerto Rico with mainland mayors experienced in disaster recovery. This type of ‘unique partnership’ could foster lessons in community resilience as need for local leadership to take action is now.
The status of the disaster recovery in Puerto Rico is still in its conception. In April, federal officials reported that utility crews continue to work in emergency restoration mode. Puerto Rico’s power grid remains in a fragile state as Local and federal worker work to rebuild before the start of the hurricane season starts again in June. In an open letter to FEMA, house democrats requested to extend the stay of US Army Corp of Engineers to work on the power line, which is schedule to pull out personnel on May 18.
The Department of Energy testified before congress that the price to rebuild the power structure would be an estimated $17.6 billion. Grassroots movements are pushing for solar power on the island though according to the Stafford Act, all US power grids and infrastructure are to be rebuilt in the same form they existed before the natural disaster. “These communities need to rebuild using smarter, more resilient, diversified power sources,” said Moira Hanes, Empowered by Light’s executive director and co-founder. “Solar and storage is the foundation for the future of any energy infrastructure for places like this that are really prone to extreme weather events.”
The prospect to move to from fossil fuel dependency to renewable energy is showing promise. Puerto Rico’s governor announced plans to privatize PREPA over the next 18 months and create a grid with more than 30 percent renewable energy generation.