Monopoly power utility's grip on island makes switching to solar difficult, even as island relies on imported fossil fuel

Puerto Ricans pay more than twice as much for electricity as Americans on the mainland yet earlier this month power cuts to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses caused widespread anger and misery. Traffic lights failed, hospitals used expensive diesel generators to keep dialysis machines and ventilators running, and fires broke out due to fluctuations in voltage. Despite the abysmal service, electricity rates have increased four times so far this year, reports the Guardian.

In hot and humid Guayama, the lights went out for several hours almost every day for those unable to afford a backup generator. But thanks to the rooftop solar system, Marrero could stay cool and watch TV without worrying about the food going off in the fridge.

“It’s the best thing that’s happened to me. I thank God because my poor neighbours are suffering but I’ve always got electricity. I feel more secure, if we get another big hurricane like Maria, I won’t suffer so much,” said Marrero.

Marrero is lucky because while Puerto Rico gets enough sunlight to meet its residential electricity needs at least four times over, less than 3% of the island’s energy comes from renewable sources. The rest is generated from imported fossil fuels: 49% from petroleum and 29% from natural gas, while coal accounts for 19%.

 

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