Sunnova begs Congress: You must help Puerto Rico restore power

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It’s been three months and 17 days since Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, destroying its electrical grid and leaving its 3.7 million U.S. citizens without electricity. Today, 45% of those residents – 1.7 million people – remain without power.

So Sunnova Energy Corporation, the island’s second largest residential solar installer behind the nation’s utility, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (commonly known as PREPA), begged Congress yesterday to do something to help those people get power restored.

The company suggested that Congress convert the investment tax credit (ITC) into a cash grant for the U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, whose grids were destroyed by Hurricanes Maria and Irma last year.

Currently, the ITC is a 30% tax credit for solar systems on residential and commercial properties. But tax-equity deals take time to evolve and come to fruition, and Sunnova says it doesn’t believe Puerto Ricans and the U.S. Virgin Islands should have to wait for electricity any longer.

Sunnova argues that a cash grant system would spur private capital to enter the market, speeding up the process of rebuilding the grid and bringing electricity to 1.7 million U.S. citizens still without it.

To make it easier for Congress to put pass such legislation quickly, Sunnova included the provisions it believes would help Puerto Rico climb out of darkness. Those suggestions are as follows:

  • The ITC would be replaced by a cash grant.
  • The cash grant option would be limited to U.S. territories recovering from disasters.
  • This provision would sunset in three years.
  • The costs would be limited to cost per MW per Treasury guidance or cost paid to a third party to construct.
  • The paperwork shall be limited for grants under $20,000.
  • The grant would be contingent on service date, not ‘placed in service’ date, due to difficulties connecting to the grid right now.

“We believe this proposed solution is paramount to the future reliability of Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure,” said William J. Berger, Sunnova’s CEO. “As Congress continues its work on the disaster supplemental, it is imperative that they remember that Puerto Rico’s energy recovery strategies need to be reliable, flexible, affordable and resilient—and utilize the energy sources that are most impactful for the island.”

While Sunnova has been one of the most vocal companies in calling for the rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s grid with renewable energy, it is not alone. Tesla, sonnen and other companies have also joined the call for Congress to do something – anything – to help restore electricity fully to the island.

In addition, the Puerto Rico Energy Resiliency Working Group, under the leadership of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, has called on Congress to provide a  $94.4 billion aid package to the territory.

Prior to the hurricanes, Puerto Rico’s utility Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) had plans to generate 20% of its electricity from renewable generation by 2035. To that end, it had built seven large-scale solar projects for a total capacity of 147 MW.