Rebuild Hurricane-Damaged Areas With Resilient, Clean Electricity

As most of Puerto Rico goes without power for the fifth day in a row following Hurricane Maria’s destruction, the event calls for a re-examination of how to rebuild the power infrastructure.

The old, fossil fuel-dependent grid clearly wasn’t resilient or in great shape to begin with. Instead of rushing to repair this old infrastructure, island leaders should consider a more distributed electricity system, with solar panels, batteries, and other clean sources of power. By spreading these resources out, the system is less vulnerable to extreme weather that can knock out one central power plant and cause whole areas to lose power, as happened there this time.

Richard Branson, a Caribbean neighbor, has the same idea, per Reuters:

British billionaire Richard Branson said on Tuesday he is in talks to set up a fund to help Caribbean nations recently ravaged by Hurricane Irma replace wrecked fossil fuel-dependent utilities with low-carbon renewable energy sources.

The British business magnate has approached governments and would rally support among financial institutions and fellow philanthropists on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“As part of that fund we want to make sure that the Caribbean moves from dirty energy to clean energy,” he said.

Branson, who has lived in the British Virgin Islands for the past 11 years, weathered Irma on Necker, his private island.

Given this worsening trend of extreme weather, we’re going to need both to reduce carbon emissions through clean technologies, but also become more resilient to the storms of today. Luckily, clean, distributed power infrastructure can solve both problems — and keep the lights on for an island that is suffering from the impacts of this storm.