Accelerating Electric Cooperative Formation in Puerto Rico
We seek to organize and provide the expertise, tools, education, and support to empower the citizens of Puerto Rico to participate meaningfully in the transition and transformation of our energy infrastructure. This is accomplished by helping communities (broadly defined) through the process of formation and management of electric cooperatives, and then through association and cooperation between those cooperatives to achieve greater scale, operational efficiency, and political relevance.
Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña
PREPA has a history of failure, is bankrupt, and will be privatized. Uncertainty rules the day. Puerto Rico is also bankrupt, and the traditional top down government-owned, monopoly utility led process - the only process Puerto Rico has ever known – is broken beyond fixing. An insular market, Puerto Rico (unlike most other US markets) has little background in commercial or residential credit and lacks many of the legal, financial, and business forms and methods that can channel capital toward distributed infrastructure and enable bottom-up solutions.
The electric system’s inadequacy is a tremendous and persistent drain on the economic potential of the island. Energy infrastructure must be rebuilt, replaced and most importantly re-thought. We desperately need to move in the direction of a new distributed system of power generation for security and resiliency reasons: a system that is also lower cost, environmentally friendly, efficient, and transparent. The time has come for the people and communities of Puerto Rico to claim their place and participate actively in the transformation of energy infrastructure.
Having come together to save lives and make change in the wake of total disaster, Puerto Rico has a population that is enlightened, motivated, and empowered.
The Government is moving in a bipartisan manner to create a legal framework for the creation of electric and energy cooperatives.
Every citizen intrinsically understands and values distributed generation and storage and we want it. And if we can get it we can pay for it. Perception of credit risk far exceeds reality.
The Foundation is adopting and supporting the effort to drive cooperative formation - enabling communities to create the counterparty credit structures and investment pathways necessary to deploy and scale hundreds of megawatts of distributed generation and energy storage. We seek to do the following:
Start-Up Support: Develop and share a packaged “Co-op in a Box” including draft legal documents, educational materials, and a step-by–step guide to establishing an electric cooperative, marketing to, screening, and adding members, and contracting, financing, and installing distributed generation and storage.
Long-Term Support: Build and train a core group of permanent electric cooperative experts to assist and support communities of all descriptions in the formation and operation of their electric cooperative. Build and share best practices and create supportive financial and educational ties between cooperatives.
Big Tent: Establish active participation and integrate system learning from local communities, credit unions, water coops, nonprofits, universities, large employers (Pharma, Walmart, etc.), solar and storage contractors, etc.
Resource Development: Establish relationships with and educate contractors and capital providers on the opportunity and benefits of partnership with the program: scale, strong credit, replicable structures, transparent recurring and expanding deal flow, etc.
This bottom-up solution has the potential on its own to begin a lasting transition to a more secure, resilient, and democratic energy infrastructure. We will look to support, nurture, and act as an organizing influence throughout the development path and operation cycle.
The Fundación Borincana is thrilled to be working with C. P. Smith and Unidos por Utuado on the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña. This is a truly groundbreaking effort which we strongly believe will improve the lives of Puerto Rican’s, serve as a benchmark and a template for other similar efforts, and contribute meaningfully to the transformation of energy infrastructure island-wide.
Organizing three small communities with few resources to take over, refurbish, and reposition critical hydroelectric infrastructure is not for the faint of heart. Further, they are moving swiftly to establish an organization of consequence to achieve the ambitious goals and the immediate opportunity to build a community-level distributed utility based on behind-the-meter solar and storage that leverages existing infrastructure and new policies.
Leveraging its network and its Founder's decades of experience in energy, projects, finance, and investment, the Foundation has been able to provide financial and strategic advice. This has included general advice as well as developing the pilot program for up to a MW of distributed solar and storage, and organizing and positioning the Cooperative to acquire, partner, contract, finance, refurbish, repower, and operate the Caoñillas and Dos Bocas hydroelectric facilities.