Over 6,000 cases of residences and small businesses are pending approval for net metering, which prevents them from accessing credits for exporting excess energy to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) network, now operated by LUMA Energy.
The delay does not comply with the Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act, which promulgates the approval on or before 30 days from when the solar panel system is located on a property. The situation has caused companies that install photovoltaic systems to file claims with the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau (PREB) to protect their customers, and others are preparing to make their own. Entrepreneurs assured that the situation discourages the law’s expectation of generating 40 percent renewable energy by 2025. Currently, only 4 percent of the island’s energy is obtained through renewable sources.
While the net metering cases are not approved, the transmission network can already transmit the surplus energy produced in homes and businesses, and LUMA collects it from customers. Alfonso Baretty, director of Grid Transformation at LUMA Energy, acknowledged the delay but said that they have been expediting what they received from PREPA.
“On June 1, 2021, we found 8,000 cases pending net measurement. This is not a static process, as we continue to receive cases every day and the total continues to increase. Right now we are averaging about 1,000 cases per month,“ Baretty said. He explained that when LUMA took over PREPA’s operation, the approval took between 175 to 180 days, and they have already reduced it to 50 days, which is still 20 days above what is stipulated by law. In addition, in the May-July quarter, LUMA only had interference in the last two months, noting that they managed to activate 28 percent more accounts than PREPA was able to manage in its best quarter.
In the Puerto Rico Solar Energy and Storage Association, the head of public policy - Javier Rúa - said that he is concerned that the situation slows the advance of renewable energy, and confirmed that there are complaints presented before the PREB by Windmar and Solar Maximum. “Before Hurricane Maria, some 9,000 solar panel systems had been installed on the island. Today, that number already reaches 25,000 systems, equivalent to an increase of 178 percent,” Rúa explained, insisting that they need the benefit of net measurement.
PREB Associate Commissioner Ferdinand Ramos confirmed the existence of the complaints and pointed out that since they are under evaluation, he cannot reveal details. He reported that there was a hearing on Aug. 16 in which LUMA accepted that there were over 7,000 unattended interconnection requests. He added that the company has promised “to catch up” in the next three months, serving some 3,000 requests per month. According to the law, if the non-compliance with the approval continues in 30 days, the PREB can issue fines to LUMA of up to $1,000 per day.
Another company that is considering filing a complaint with the PREB is Verdifica, which designs electrical infrastructure for the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. Its president, Gabriel Rivera, assured that so far this year they have not approved a net measurement for any of their clients.
“We file all the documents on the agency’s website, but we are not provided with any effective information that allows us to know the status of our application. There is a regulation, but they are not following it. Right now I have about 20 projects that have not been approved. Today it is easier to assemble the complete project from the plans to the installation than to obtain the approval of LUMA, which is affecting companies,” Rivera affirmed.
Sunlight Technology is in a similar situation, and its sales manager - William Rivera - pointed out that the company has clients with net metering requests for a year. He argued that the situation is worrisome and that customers cannot obtain the legislated incentive. “Unfortunately, everything translates into not achieving the net measurement, in the face of a reality where only 15 percent of those who have a renewable energy system will be able to achieve it because the island does not have a network that supports 100 percent of homes or businesses that adopt photovoltaic systems,” Rivera said.