Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock will meet with a World Bank delegation this week that will begin analyzing the feasibility of building a submarine power connection between the island and the neighboring Dominican Republic.
McClintock said that the government of Spain has made available funds that will allow the World Bank to conduct a pre-feasibility study on the potential for the interconnection between the electrical grids of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
The delegation, led by Philippe Benoit, energy sector manager at the World Bank’s Sustainable Development Department for the Latin America and the Caribbean Region, will lay the groundwork for the study.
During 2010, the governments of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico began discussing the potential for interconnecting the electric power grids.
Last October, President Leonel Fernández and Gov. Luis Fortuño agreed to create a joint working group to study and oversee all aspects of a possible interconnection project, with the first step being assisting the World Bank in conducting a study, McClintock said.
McClintock and other backers believe the project, along with a more advanced plan to build an undersea power cable between Puerto Rico and the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands, can be the start of Caribbean energy grid which would connect most major islands to each others’ power systems.
“A regional electric grid would create a large-scale transnational electricity market in which Caribbean countries could trade renewable energy rather than oil,” said McClintock, speaking at the two-day conference “The Electrical Interconnection of the Caribbean,” that took place at Turabo University. “And certainly, cheaper electricity will facilitate investment, competitiveness and job creation that can reduce poverty and social inequalities.”
With Caribbean nations overly dependent on imported oil for power generation, the region has some of the highest electricity prices in the world, and the recent spike in oil prices have driven prices as high as 40 cents per kilowatt hour, about four times the average price in the states.
The interconnection projects would allow the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) to sell its excess power to neighboring islands, which have even higher electricity costs than Puerto Rico. It would also free small islands to develop green and intermittent power sources and feed this energy into the regional grid.
Cost is a big factor for the projects. While international funding may be tapped for the D.R.-P.R. project, the plan to connect Puerto Rico to the U.S. Virgin Islands would require federal funding.
“We should continue to pursue bilateral and/or subregional interconnections that are technically viable and make sense economically —and this is already happening with the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” McClintock said