Los Pasos para la Transformación Energética de Puerto Rico

Dangerous weather. Electricity pylons with power lines in stunning storm during colorful sunset.

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El modelo de hacer negocios de las compañías de generación eléctrica, incluyendo la AEE, tradicionalmente conocido como “build and grow” y basado en (1) la construcción de plantas generatrices cada vez más grandes y eficientes, utilizando combustibles fósiles baratos y (2) en un aumento continuo en el consumo de electricidad, comenzó a fallar en la década de los años 70 debido a limitaciones en la eficiencia alcanzable en la generación de electricidad, el aumento en el precio de los combustibles fósiles, la nueva reglamentación ambiental, la reducción en la demanda de electricidad y la entrada de tecnologías nuevas de generación utilizando fuentes renovables.

Dicho de otra manera, el modelo de producir y vender electricidad cambió hace 45 años. Pero en Puerto Rico la AEE siguió haciendo las cosas como siempre las había hecho. Por tanto, no debe sorprendernos que es necesario transformar radicalmente la AEE.

Ahora bien, la reforma del sistema energético de Puerto Rico tiene que ser bien pensada, estratégica, y seguir una secuencia lógica, más aún cuando la AEE enfrenta simultáneamente los retos de la reconstrucción del sistema eléctrico después del Huracán María, la reestructuración de su deuda bajo el procedimiento del Titulo III de PROMESA, una baja sustancial en la demanda por sus servicios, y la posible privatización, total o parcial, del sistema eléctrico que ha sido administrado y operado como un monopolio por más de setenta años.

Dada esa situación, recomendamos que se implemente el siguiente proceso para transformar nuestro sistema energético:

Primero, la Comisión de Energía para Puerto Rico, trabajando en conjunto con la AEE, debe actualizar el Plan Integrado de Recursos del 2016 de manera que se tome en consideración los eventos meteorológicos del 2017 y se establezcan metas y objetivos con respecto a la capacidad de generación necesaria, la estructura tarifaria y de precios a cobrarse a los consumidores, los estándares para reconstruir la red transmisión y distribución, y la incorporación de energía renovable a la red, entre otros objetivos importantes.

Segundo, partiendo del Plan Integrado de Recursos, determinar la modalidad de privatización y la estructura de mercado óptima para lograr las metas y objetivos establecidos en ese Plan.

Tercero, la Comisión de Energía deberá establecer unos lineamientos (“guidelines”) para gobernar el proceso de transformación. Entre eestos se deben incluir las cualificaciones que se le exigirán a las compañías que deseen participar del proceso. Aquí es importante prestar atención a la reputación corporativa del licitador, su situación financiera, el desempeño que ha tenido en otras jurisdicciones, y sí ha tenido problemas legales por incumplimiento de contrato o señalamientos de corrupción en otros lugares, entre otros factores.

Cuarto, la Comisión de Energía deberá establecer claramente los criterios que se utilizarán para otorgar los contratos. Entre otros criterios, es importante enfocarse en la capacidad tecnológica de la firma, la experiencia del equipo gerencial, los costos estimados de producción y la solidez financiera para hacer las inversiones de capital requeridas. Sí los contratos son otorgados a compañías sin la experiencia y los recursos adecuados el resultado será el fracaso total del proceso de privatización.

Quinto, una vez se establezcan los parámetros técnicos, a través del Plan Integrado de Recursos; la estructura de mercado óptima para Puerto Rico; las cualificaciones que se le exigirán a las compañías que participen en el proceso; y los criterios para la otorgación de los contratos; entonces la Autoridad para las Alianzas Público Privadas de Puerto Rico procederá a negociar los contratos pertinentes para implementar la transformación del sistema eléctrico de Puerto Rico.

Sexto, la Comisión de Energía de Puerto Rico deberá emitir un certificado de cumplimiento como condición precedente al cierre de cualquier contrato o transacción. Este requisito es común en los Estados Unidos en los procesos de compra-venta de entidades altamente reglamentadas, por ejemplo, instituciones financieras, compañías de telecomunicaciones, o compañías de radio y televisión. El propósito de este requisito es que la Comisión de Energía certifique que la transacción negociada cumple con los criterios previamente establecidos.

Entonces se comenzaría con el proceso de implementación de la nueva estructura del mercado eléctrico en Puerto Rico.

Desafortunadamente, del P. del S. 860 contiene varias cláusulas que limitan o diluyen la autoridad de la Comisión de Energía en el contexto de la transformación de la AEE.

Por ejemplo, la Sección 6(c) y las Secciones 8, 11, y 12 del proyecto de ley limitan o eliminan los poderes de la Comisión para (1) reglamentar las tarifas y cargos que podrá cobrar una entidad contratante; (2) exigir a la parte contratante el cumplimiento con cualquier proceso, requisito, aprobación, o revisión por parte de la Comisión de Energía de Puerto Rico; y (3) exigir el cumplimiento de cualquier entidad contratante con las disposiciones de cualquier Plan Integrado de Recursos. También se elimina la aplicabilidad de cualquier reglamento promulgado por la Comisión a las Transacciones de la AEE y se elimina el requisito de que cualquier contrato otorgado con respecto a alguna Transacción de la AEE sea evaluado o aprobado por la Comisión de Energía.

La implementación de esas limitaciones sería un grave error de política pública. Y en palabras del Inspector General Interino del Departamento de Seguridad Interna (“DHS”) en una vista pública reciente en el Congreso de Estados Unidos, constituye “una receta para el desastre”. Creo que lo último que deseamos en Puerto Rico después de tanto sufrimiento causado por la lentitud en re-energizar la isla, es provocar otro desastre en el sistema eléctrico causado por reglamentación inadecuada y el funcionamiento deficiente de nuestras instituciones políticas. Recordemos que la crisis energética en California en el año 2000-2001 fue causada por un marco regulatorio deficiente que fue aprovechado por Enron para aumentar las tarifas astronómicamente y resultó en apagones selectivos a través del estado debido a errores humanos, no a eventos de la naturaleza.

En resumen, la reglamentación adecuada del mercado es esencial para obtener los resultados deseados en términos de modernizar nuestro sistema eléctrico, incorporar la generación con fuentes renovables y reducir el costo por kilovatio-hora.

Por: Sergio M. Marxuach

El autor es director de Política Pública del Centro para una Nueva Economía. Esta columna fue publicada originalmente en El Nuevo Día el día 15 de abril de 2018.



perspective view of electricity power lines on blue sky background

Steps towards Energy Transformation in Puerto Rico

The business model for electrical generation companies, including PREPA, traditionally known as “build and grow,” is based on (1) the construction of ever larger and more efficient generating plants using cheap fossil fuels and (2) a constant increase in electrical consumption. This model began to fail, however, in the 1970s due to limitations on the efficiency achievable in the generation of electricity, the increase in the price of fossil fuels, new environmental regulation, a reduction in the demand for electrical power, and the entrance of new generation technologies using renewable energy sources.

To put it another way, the model for producing and selling electricity changed 45 years ago, but in Puerto Rico PREPA went on doing things the way it had always done them. So it should not surprise us that PREPA needs to be radically transformed.

But the reform of the energy system in Puerto Rico has to be well-thought-out, strategic, and it must follow a logical sequence, especially when PREPA is facing a number  of simultaneous challenges: the rebuilding of the electrical system after Hurricane Maria, the restructuring of its debt under the procedures of Title III of PROMESA, a substantial decline in the demand for its services, and the possible privatization, total or partial, of the electrical system that has been administered and operated as a monopoly for more than seventy years.

Given this situation, we recommend implementing the follow process for transforming our electrical system:

First, the Energy Regulatory Commission for Puerto Rico, working in conjunction with PREPA, should update the 2016 Integrated Resource Plan to take into consideration the meteorological events of 2017 and establish goals and objectives for the generation capacity needed, the structure of rates and prices to be charged consumers, the standards for rebuilding the transmission and distribution network and for incorporating renewable energy into that network, and other important objectives.

Second, on the basis of the Integrated Resource Plan, determine the modality to be employed for privatization and the optimal market structure for achieving the goals and objectives set forth in the Plan.

Third, the Energy Commission should establish guidelines to govern the transformation process. Among these guidelines should be the qualifications to be required of the companies who wish to take part in the process. Here, it is important to take into account the bidder’s corporate reputation, its financial situation, its performance in other jurisdictions, and whether it has had legal problems due to breach of contract or accusations of corruption in other locations, among other factors.

Fourth, the Regulatory Commission should establish clear criteria to be used in granting the contracts. Among other criteria, it is important to focus on the firm’s technological capacity, the managerial team’s experience, the estimated costs of production, and the financial solidity for making the necessary capital investments. If the contracts are let to companies without adequate experience and resources, the result will surely be a total failure of the privatization process.

Fifth, after establishing the appropriate technical parameters (via the Integrated Resource Plan), the optimal market structure for Puerto Rico, the qualifications to be required of the companies taking part in the process, and the criteria for granting the contracts, the Puerto Rico Authority for Public-Private Partnerships can proceed to negotiate the contracts necessary for implementing the transformation of Puerto Rico’s electrical system.

Sixth, the Puerto Rico Energy Commission should issue a certificate of compliance as a condition precedent to the signing of any contract or transaction. In the United States this requirement is common in sales of such highly regulated entities as financial institutions, telecommunications companies, and radio and television companies. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure, through a review by the Energy Commission, that the transaction negotiated complies with the previously established criteria.

At that point, implementation of the new electric-market structure in Puerto Rico can begin.
Unfortunately, Senate Bill 860 contains several clauses that limit or dilute the Energy Regulatory Commission’s authority in the context of the transformation of PREPA.

For example, Section 6(c) and Sections 8, 11, and 12 of the bill limit the Commission’s power to (1) regulate the rates and charges that a contracting entity can impose; (2) demand that the contracting party comply with any process, requirement, approval, or review by the Energy Regulatory Commission of Puerto Rico, and (3) demand that any contracting entity comply with the provisions of any Integrated Resource Plan. Likewise, the bill now before the Senate eliminates the applicability of any regulation issued by the Commission affecting PREPA’s Transactions and also eliminates the requirement that any contract let with regard to any PREPA Transaction be evaluated, approved, or endorsed by the Energy Commission.

Implementation of these limitations would be a grave public policy error. Indeed, in the words of the Acting Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a recent congressional hearing, it would constitute “a recipe for disaster.” I think the last thing we want in Puerto Rico after so much suffering caused by the slowness in restoring the island’s electric service is to provoke another disaster in the electrical system because of inadequate regulation and the unsatisfactory functioning of our political institutions. We should remember the energy crisis in California in 2000-2001 caused by a weak regulatory framework that was taken advantage of by Enron in order to raise its rates astronomically. This crisis resulted in rolling blackouts across the state due to human error, not natural events.

In summary, adequate regulation of the market is essential if we are to obtain the desired results with respect to modernizing our electrical system, incorporating renewable sources of energy into our generation system, and reducing the cost per kilowatt-hour.

By: Sergio M. Marxuach

The author is the Policy Director at the Center for a New Economy. This column was originally published in El Nuevo Día on April  15th, 2018.

Expediting the Recovery Process: A Proposal to Create a Puerto Rico Development Authority

Introduction

Puerto Rico is at a critical junction in the disaster recovery process after Hurricane María. Relief efforts, while still ongoing in certain parts of the island, are slowly winding down and soon will give way to recovery activities and the rebuilding of the island. It is, therefore, “a time of desperate loss, yet also a time of distinct possibility.”1

The commencement of the recovery process is crucial to making the most of that “time of distinct possibility”, as research carried out after similar disasters has found that the time between the beginning of the relief efforts and the beginning of the recovery process is highly correlated with the length of the recovery, as well as with the severity and duration of public health and economic impacts of the disaster on the population as a whole.2 So, it is in the best interest of all stakeholders to move the recovery efforts forward as soon as possible.

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Proposals for Disaster Recovery and Rebuilding Puerto Rico

 

  • TREAT PUERTO RICO FAIRLY – Puerto Ricans are US citizens by birth. Therefore, Congress should treat Puerto Rico as a state for purposes of allocating disaster recovery and rebuilding funds. Funding provided through FEMA and the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program should be allocated to Puerto Rico on terms and conditions no less advantageous than those applicable to the fifty states, including funding for hazard mitigation to ensure we minimize harm from similar events in the future.

  • LEVERAGE PRIVATE SECTOR FUNDS – In addition to providing Puerto Rico with its fair share of disaster recovery funding, Congress should legislate to encourage the private sector to actively participate in the creation of the new Puerto Rico. This could be accomplished by enacting a special private activity disaster recovery bonds program, similar to the Liberty Bonds program enacted after 9/11 and after Hurricane Katrina. These bonds would be exempt from federal taxes on interest, including the Alternative Minimum Tax, which allows issuers to offer the bonds at lower interest rates. Proceeds from these bond offerings have been used in the past to finance broad reconstruction activities, including the rebuilding of utilities, hospitals, hotels, residential housing, and commercial real estate, among other uses. The private entity issuing the bonds is entirely responsible for their repayment.
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The Case for Comprehensive Disaster Relief

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Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

By: Sergio M. Marxuach
Public Policy Director

This hurricane season has been particularly bad with major storms hitting Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, and several Gulf states. Total damages are estimated to exceed $200 billion. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) is doing the best job it can with the resources it has at its disposal, but it is clearly reaching the limits of its capabilities. Under the American constitutional system, only Congress has the authority to enact a comprehensive relief and reconstruction package to address this situation.

The devastation in Texas, Florida, the United States Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico has been well documented. The destruction of public infrastructure and the loss of private property affect millions of US citizens. A well-financed, broad-based recovery and reconstruction program would provide a much-needed boost to economic activity in these heavily damaged areas and help many hard-working families get back on their feet. READ MORE

Puerto Rico’s Pension System: Knocking on Heaven’s Door

This post was originally published on January 27, 2011.

Introduction

The Employees Retirement System of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (the “ERS”) is a trust created by Act 447 of May 15, 1951 to provide pension and other benefits to retired employees of the government of Puerto Rico and its instrumentalities. According to the Management’s Discussion and Analysis included in the ERS’s most recent financial statements, the system “since its inception lacked proper planning.”1 The problem was (and to a certain extent still is) that the level of both employer and employee contributions was relatively low and was not actuarially determined, while the level of benefits was statutorily defined and bore no relation to employee contributions or to the investment yield of the systems assets.

In 1973 the benefit structure was “enhanced” without enacting a corresponding increase in contribution levels. As government employment increased in the mid-to-late 1970s, partially in response to the general economic slowdown, the gap between the assets available to pay benefits and the actuarial obligation began to widen.

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Restoring Growth: Forging the Road Ahead – 2017 CNE Conference Proceedings

Growth

CNE’s 2017 Conference was unique in many ways. Puerto Rico’s debt crisis provided an exacting but precious backdrop for a much-needed and multifaceted discussion on the current fiscal policies and the prospects for future structural change.

The two-day Conference consisted of seven events designed to bring the conversation about debt, uncertainty, austerity and growth to a wide variety of groups.

The highlight: the launch of the CNE Growth Commission for Puerto Rico and its first convening in San Juan.

Debt, Austerity and Growth – Joseph Stiglitz in San Juan

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A variegated audience of over one thousand people gathered on April 6, 2017 at the San Juan Symphonic Hall to listen and reflect on Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz’ words of caution and forward-looking advise regarding Puerto Rico’s economic predicament. Stiglitz is one of 17 experts who conform pro-bono the CNE Growth Commission for Puerto Rico.

Click here to access a complete recording of the event.

Watch the following summary videos:

In introducing Stiglitz, CNE’s President and Founder Miguel A. Soto-Class stressed the need for ample involvement in the process of economic recovery and made an urgent call-to-action.

Stiglitz cautioned against the contractionary effects fiscal austerity measures will have on the island’s economy…

…and urged for growth measures as anchors of any fiscal and debt restructuring plans.

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Growth Amidst Uncertainty: A Free Market Perspective – A Conversation with Steven Davis

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“Historically, the Puerto Rican tax code and regulatory system abound with provisions for special business interests…The result is a complicated web of policy-induced financial incentives that helps sustain a rent-seeking business culture and an overly intrusive role for the government.”
Steven Davis

On April 6, 2017, Steven Davis, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Global Economics and Management at the Sloan School of Management of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led a conversation with Puerto Rico entrepreneurs and business leaders on how free markets can help Puerto Rico create a healthier economic climate and foster growth. Davis, who is a pro-bono member of the CNE Growth Commission for Puerto Rico, argued in favor of simplifying regulations affecting the island’s business environment.

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Charting a Path Towards Growth – CNE Growth Commission All-Day Convening

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The CNE Growth Commission for Puerto Rico convened for the first time in San Juan and began to craft an agenda focused on helping the island devise economic development opportunities and strengthen execution capabilities.

The Commission’s vision is based on the premise that – given the demands of a rapidly changing knowledge-based economy and heightened global competition – long-term sustained economic growth is a result of a country’s capability to move into higher value-added activities. Therefore, the Commission understands that any new economic strategy for long-term growth in Puerto Rico ought to be focused on:

  1. Speeding up the process of economic structural change by advancing the economy’s insertion in high-value niches, investing in innovation, and adopting new knowledge and technologies.
  2. Creating the institutional framework to promote this structural change; that is, revamping the institutions whose mission is to promote this transformation.
  3. Devising public policies that help raise the wellbeing of society in an inclusive manner, so that most of its members can benefit from the gains of improved economic performance.

Access the CNE’s Growth Commission Workplan

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Prompting a Far-Reaching Dialogue About Economic Recovery

With the objective of prompting a far-reaching dialogue about the process of economic recovery, the CNE 2017 Conference included also a series of workshops, presentations and meetings with Puerto Rico and US media, University of Puerto Rico students and the general public.

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