Puerto rico government

La Borinqueña joins the fight for clean energy in Puerto Rico

The NRDC recently partnered with Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, the writer and creator of La Borinquena, to highlight Puerto Rico’s struggles to break its addiction to imported fossil fuels in a special edition of the comic. Hurricane Maria devastated the island’s electrical system when it hit in September 2017, causing the world’s second longest blackout. After the storm, communities rushed to switch to solar power as the local electric utility struggled to maintain its monopoly trying to switch from imported oil to imported LNG (liquefied natural gas or very cold fractured gas) to generate electricity.

In the latest issue of La Borinquena comic, the hero battles shadowy villains in Puerto Rico who sabotage the community’s attempts to install solar panels and batteries to deal with the constant blackouts. In one case of life imitating art, Puerto Rico suffered another massive blackout on April 6, the same day the book was released, which left millions without power for a few days. Unfortunately, in Puerto Rico, living with a failing electrical system has become the norm.

Artist Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez with NRDC, RPPR and LLF staff

To challenge the status quo, as I wrote in my recent blog, NRDC and our partner Resilient Power Puerto Rico, thanks to the generosity of the Leon Lowenstein Foundation, let’s continue our mission to empower communities to transition to clean energy. Over the past year, we have worked with networks of vulnerable populations to help them improve their climate resilience, installing solar battery systems at three different sites. Through this work, we support essential facilities for the people they serve (at the Coordinadora Paz para las Mujeres headquarters, the Coalición de Coaliciones pro Personas sin Hogar office, and Mesón de Amor), as these organizations develop strategies and gather the necessary resources to reduce their vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters and extreme climatic events. We believe that access to decentralized solar energy:

  • Reduces exposure to power outages, providing independence from centralized fossil fuel system.
  • Reduces susceptibility to the impact of disasters, providing reliable and stable access to energy and helping to ensure continuity of service delivery.
  • Increases access to adaptive capital, placing control of energy resources directly in the hands of local leaders and their communities.

Paz Coordinator for Las Mujeres

Coordinadora Paz para las Mujeres is a non-governmental organization that brings together a pioneering coalition committed to the eradication of domestic violence and sexual abuse in Puerto Rico, including emergency shelters, essential service providers, universities, feminist organizations and human rights activists working to address gender-based violence.

According to Vilma González, executive director of Coordinadora Paz para las Mujeres, “[Hurricanes] Irma and María have been our great teachers in terms of gender-based violence and responses to disaster situations. These disasters have exposed the inequalities and vulnerabilities that already exist and are compounded in times like these. We have recognized access to electricity as one of our big challenges, especially for shelters for victims of domestic violence. We needed to identify resources to ensure the safety of foster women and their children.

Community workshop to discuss the installation of a solar micro-grid

Resilient Power Puerto Rico

Coalición de Coaliciones pro Personas sin Hogar

Coalición de Coaliciones is an organization committed to improving the quality of life of homeless and other vulnerable populations by applying evidence-based practices and advocating for their right to healthy lives, well-being and fully enjoy their dignity. Coalición brings together a network of service providers, including case managers, social workers, residential placement services, and medication treatment for substance use and behavioral health conditions.

According to Francisco Rodríguez Fraticelli, executive president of the organization, “We have confirmed that state-provided shelters create access barriers for homeless people because many of them have mental health problems or, in because of their use of illegal substances, they are rejected, leaving them on the streets. During emergencies, homeless people may not have access to most of the help provided by the government, so “we have to provide it ourselves”.

Installation completed in Meson de Amor

Resilient Power Puerto Rico

Meson de Amor

Mesón de Amor is a community project of the Casa de Amor, Fe, y Esperanza (CAFE; “House of Love, Faith and Hope”), and its goal is to provide meals, lodging and free services for low-income people. student population in the area around the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus.

According to Angel Perez de Mesón de Amor, on the day of the last power outage in Puerto Rico, “We were able to open and operate normally, thanks to the solar system installed. And this has allowed us to continue to provide the services we provide daily without interruption. »

While La Borinquena is based on a fictional superhero, the three groups mentioned above are made up of real life heroes who provide services to people who are in desperate need of help. The NRDC will continue to advocate for policy changes to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and to improve resilience, now that we have entered a period of climate consequences. As much of our work in Puerto Rico is “project-based”, we had the opportunity to create replicable examples while hopefully improving the lives of the communities in which we were fortunate enough to work. Today, thanks to our partnership with La Borinquenawe can introduce this struggle to new audiences who can learn about climate and resilience and hopefully become the policy advocates we need as well.