The Puerto Rico Oversight Board said it was focusing on four key energy projects for expedited permitting as the island looks to restore its economy and infrastructure.
“Hurricanes Irma and Maria have demonstrated beyond any doubt Puerto Rico’s dire need to revamp and upgrade its electrical energy infrastructure,” said the board’s revitalization coordinator Noel Zamot. “We must do it quickly. That’s part of the reason why this first generation of projects to be advanced through PROMESA’s Title V Critical Projects Process all address energy issues.
“We will be considering other types of infrastructure projects also, but right now the Oversight Board’s focus is on projects that can deliver energy solutions quickly,” Zamot said.
Title V of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act allows a revitalization coordinator to use expedited permitting to advance major projects.
The four projects would involve $1.47 billion in investment, nearly all from the private sector. The board estimates that the projects would create more than 8,200 direct and indirect jobs.
The board is seeking comments on the projects by 5 p.m. on Feb. 6 on the web site, https://cpp.juntasupervision.pr.gov. All comments will be made public.
The four projects open to comment are:
- A wind energy project called Parque Eólico del Norte (North Wind Park) designed to generate 19.8 megawatts an hour, store energy in a battery system and transfer electricity to a nearby industrial sector. New Era Eolic LLC plans to build the wind park in Vega Baja with $36 million in private investment and $11.5 million in federal funds. The developers say the project would take 18 months.
- A solid waste energy production site from Energy Answers International. The Arecibo Resource Recovery Facility would create a net 70 MW/hour. This would be built over 42 months with $860 million of private investment. During construction 7,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs would be created. After construction there would be 750 direct, indirect, and induced full-time jobs.
- A project to reduce energy, water consumption, and other utility costs at the Government Unit Buildings at the Bayamón and Ponce Correctional Institutional Complexes. NORESCO would complete the project in 24 months. It estimates that $25 million in private funds and $262,000 in public funds would be involved.
- Steps to provide energy generation back-up and energy reserve goods and services to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. ARG Precision Corp., PW Power Systems, and Bostonia Partners propose to work together to allow for dual fuel capability at seven PREPA power generators. They expect that the project could be completed in 18 months with $538 million in private investment
The choices came under fire from Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
He said the choices are inconsistent with Puerto Rico Energy Commission’s Integrated Resource Plan, which doesn't include a garbage incinerator.
Sanzillo said the key issue in deciding energy projects would be a grasp of projected demand and the board doesn’t have a demand study.
The proposals were irresponsible as a regulatory action, he said. The board is supposed to support the island’s energy commission but, instead, the board supported these projects without consulting the commission.
Sanzillo said the proposals were fiscally irresponsible. He said in nearly 30 years work in public sector work he never saw a garbage incinerator make budget.
He said the solid waste plan was a “non-starter” environmentally.
He said the corrections facility project might have some value.
“Without proper vetting – and I do not mean a comment period – I mean discovery and cross examination – this looks like the board has bought a series of sales pitches from developers,” Sanzillo said. The projects aren't "a way to change Puerto Rico for the better," he said. “I am deeply troubled by the board’s actions.”