Life Without Electricity

Can you imagine living life without electricity? Food storage, communication devices, and other essentials for daily modern life depend on electricity. Yet, Puerto Rico continues to lack electricity, with 79% of the island without power over four weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Experts say that restoring electricity to the island could take months longer, with some harder-to-reach areas of the island potentially facing a year without electricity.

It is difficult to describe how pervasive electricity usage is for modern life. Because it is ever present, you really don’t consider its presence until it is absent. Some of the primary concerns of living on an island without electricity for so long are clean water, food storage, and communication. Many water treatment plants function with electric pumps. Absent these pumps, citizens lack access to clean drinking water. Similarly, most food storage requires refrigeration. Without refrigeration, access to healthy and affordable foods quickly become a problem. To read more about life on Puerto Rico without electricity, click here. The rest of this post will focus on potential future solutions to electricity problems.

The first solution to Puerto Rico’s power problem, and an initiative that should be pursued by the United States generally, is to develop renewable energy networks and distributed energy networks. By decentralizing the energy generation sources, the potential for wide-scale damage to networks is diminished and, therefore, grid resiliency increases. The creation of microgrids, a form of localized control that broadly falls within the umbrella of distributed energy, will allow for a more efficient and modernized form of energy distribution in Puerto Rico that adds further resiliency to the power grid.

More importantly, the U.S. must resolve the Puerto Rican debt crisis. This topic is too in-depth for the purposes of this post, but the crisis is largely the result of the unique colonial/territorial relationship Puerto Rico has. Without addressing the underlying cause of Puerto Rico’s crisis, any fixes to Puerto Rico’s grid will fail to result in a long-term energy solution or in a just outcome for the Puerto Rican people. For a brief read about the causes of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, click here.