Puerto Rico poised to benefit from energy efficiency, but opponents get the facts wrong

(ACEEE blog, 1 Nov 2019) The people of Puerto Rico will soon benefit significantly from an untapped and least-cost energy resource: energy efficiency.

Customer efficiency programs lower overall energy bills for residents and businesses, promote local economic development, reduce emissions, and can improve electric system reliability and resilience.  

In coming months, Puerto Rico is scheduled to begin such programs as a result of legislation enacted in April that sets a goal of saving 30% of electricity use by 2040. Unfortunately, opponents of energy efficiency in Puerto Rico have recently gotten the facts wrong, emphasizing the costs while missing the benefits for all customers, and mischaracterizing the programs as conservation ads rather than efficiency programs. 

Benefits outweigh the costs

The Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB), the island’s energy regulator, has developed a $13 million budget for initial programs, to be collected on customer bills beginning this month.  But press coverage on the new charge has been dominated by skeptics who focus only on the effort’s costs and not its benefits.

Efficiency is the least-cost resource compared to more costly electricity generation —on average about 3 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).  By investing in more efficient equipment and appliances in homes and buildings, Puerto Rico can reduce customer energy bills because of lower energy use and the reduced need to build more expensive generating plants to serve these loads.  Efficiency also reduces emissions and boosts local economic development. Its programs are not free but small increases in consumer rates return a much higher share of benefits to all customers.   

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ACEEE blog, 1 Nov 2019: Puerto Rico poised to benefit from energy efficiency, but opponents get the facts wrong