It has been one year since Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico, with 155 mph winds devastating the power infrastructure, shutting down roads, and, damaging an already fragile economy with total losses estimated at $91B. More tragically, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. Recovery continues, but it is, by no means, complete.
Six months after the storm slogged across the island, I had the opportunity to spend a week there, traveling with a group of eleven MIT Sloan EMBA students and award-winning filmmaker Bill Carter. They were there as part of their GO-Lab class, working on two projects addressing the value and viability of integrating reliable microgrid systems to improve resiliency and reliability in the delivery of power for the Puerto Rican people and economy. One team focused on the architecture, the other on regulation. Both are critical to finding a sustainable solution. Their conclusions included:
• microgrids are viable, but an unbundling of the market needs to occur
• operators must prepare to manage the inevitability of grid defection
• support is needed for providers to pilot and coordinate on microgrids
• development of a full-functioning energy system with robust deployment of microgrids requires a fully modernized grid
• an independent and empowered energy regulator is essential to ensure steady and durable energy policy and attract adequate levels of private investment
• stakeholders must break out of their silos, minimize partisan divides, and work collaboratively to reach consensus to advance their (unrecognized) shared interests in stable, long-range policies