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Puerto Rico governor unveils solar power plans in speech

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Governor Pedro Pierluisi announced new solar energy initiatives Tuesday during his annual state of the territory address, a speech seen by many as critical as he battles falling ratings in the amid growing dissatisfaction with expensive electricity bills, government corruption and slow-moving hurricane reconstruction.

The more than hour-long speech and ceremony at the U.S. territory’s beachfront Capitol was powered entirely by generators to avoid any potential disruptions given the continued instability of the island’s crumbling power grid.

The fragile grid has been a priority for Pierluisi’s administration, which has overseen the privatization of the operation of the island’s power generation, transmission and distribution in moves widely criticized given the blackouts persistent.

On Tuesday evening, Pierluisi announced that the US Federal Emergency Management Agency had approved microgrid projects to provide 100% electricity to nearby islands of Vieques and Culebra, popular with tourists.

He also announced $100 million in federal funds for a new voucher program targeting the middle class to fund up to 30% of the costs of installing solar battery systems in their homes.

Pierluisi has pledged for Puerto Rico to grow from 3% to 40% renewable energy by the end of 2025 and 60% by 2040.

The governor also addressed concerns about continued government corruption, with 10 Puerto Rican mayors prosecuted by federal authorities in recent years.

He urged the legislature to approve pending bills aimed at cracking down on corruption.

“Zero tolerance and zero impunity,” said Pierluisi.

He also highlighted ongoing hurricane reconstruction efforts targeting hospitals, homes, roads, schools and other infrastructure that were battered by Hurricanes Maria and Fiona.

Pierluisi noted that his administration has so far helped more than 7,400 families out of the 12,000 still waiting for help with homes damaged by Hurricane Maria, a powerful Category 4 storm that hit the island. in September 2017, flattening the power grid and destroying or damaging hundreds of thousands of people. houses.

Further damage was caused by Hurricane Fiona, a Category 1 storm that hit the southwestern region of Puerto Rico in September 2022, causing an island-wide power outage.

Pierluisi also unveiled a preliminary budget of $31 billion, which still needs to be approved by lawmakers and a federal board of control that oversees the island’s finances. Puerto Rico announced in 2015 that it was unable to pay its public debt of more than $70 billion, then filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in history in 2017.

Pierluisi touted his administration’s achievements during his speech, which comes as he prepares to seek a second term next year in what many see as a highly competitive race.

“It is obvious that the campaign has begun,” said Rafael Hernández, president of the House of Puerto Rico and member of the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party. “But there is still a lot of work to do.”

José Luis Dalmau, president of Puerto Rico’s Senate and also a member of the main opposition party, said he was intrigued by descriptions of Pierluisi’s accomplishments given the multiple challenges faced by many people on the island of 3.2 million. of inhabitants with a poverty rate of 45% are still facing. .

“Clearly the governor lives in another Puerto Rico,” he said.

washingtonpost Gt

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