Puerto Rico has historically been dependent on imported fossil fuels to power much of its energy grid. In Puerto Rico, there is a current installation capacity of 6.3 million kW with 5.9 million kW powered by fossil fuels. For the 3.4 million residents, distributing energy is of major concern. [1] Within the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), there exist 2,478 miles of transmission lines and 31,485 miles of distribution lines. [2] 

Following the Hurricane Maria and Irma disasters, as the lines went down and PREPA was unable to bring the power grid back quickly, much of Puerto Rico relied on diesel engines. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) contracted many first time fuel distribution companies post-storm. As a result, the distribution fleets of such companies were incapable of handling the sheer amount of fuel demanded in a time when the main power grid was blacked out and when electricity was inaccessible. [3] Lines at gas stations were hours long, and many were still unable to get the necessary fuel to drive to work, bring their kids to school, or go get the necessary supplies for other aspects of life. More severely, as fuel at hospitals, refrigerators, and sanitation enters ran low, the death toll rose. Specifically for power generators, there was not only a lack of diesel fuel but a lack of generators themselves, leading to territory-wide shortages. [4]

Figure 1: Center for diesel generator distribution after Hurricane Maria. Credit. Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The New York Times.

After the cleanup of Hurricane Maria, many issues still stand. Presently, there is a severe lack of personnel to distribute the necessary fuel. With 36,000 employees in the transportation sector and with 15.7%  in electric power generation, transmission, and distribution, there is not enough man power after storms to serve 3.4 million residents. [5] Additionally, though liquified natural gas (LNG) is on the rise in Puerto Rico, there is only one LNG regasification facility at Guayanilla Bay, making processing in the north or east sides of Puerto Rico infeasible (Fausset, Richard). Because Puerto Rico is an island, it possesses no natural reservoirs of petroleum and  therefore all of its fossil fuels are imported. [1] On a more political side, Puerto Rico just signed the the Public Energy Policy Law of Puerto Rico. This bill promises that Puerto Rico will power 40% of its energy with renewables by 2025. However, since Puerto Rico is $74 billion in debt and cannot file for bankruptcy because it is not protected by chapter 9 of the US Bankruptcy Code, it is difficult for Puerto Rico to finance their renewable ventures. [5] Socially, there are implications of socioeconomic inequality with the current distribution of diesel generators. The fact that some families that do have generators have lights on in their homes while others exist with no generators creates a visible social disparity. Additionally, it is difficult for individual homeowners to pay for a generator as well as the necessary fuel. Generators to power a home with roughly 20 kW of power cost $122 of diesel to run each day.[6]

In the short term, having stockpiles of diesel for community residents and more ports for distribution could alleviate much of the generator fuel shortages that affected so many after the storms.[7] As diesel can be stably stored for 12 months, only a yearly check on such reserves is necessary. Providing incentives to increase the workforce in electric power generation, transmission, and distribution could greatly alleviate such backlogging after future storms. For example, benefits to employees of energy distribution such as overtime, medical insurance, or retirement could increase the number of employees in the transmission and distribution (T&D) sector. For the average Puerto Rican, a training program for each community center can be implemented. With such a program, after storms, several point people from each community can be directed towards where to gain access to fuel. This could alleviate lines for refueling cars and help Puerto Ricans return to their lives quickly. 

Figure 2: Current layout of energy processing centers in Puerto Rico; lacking LNG regasification centers. Credit. IEEE Spectrum :Rebuilding Puerto Rico’s Power Grid.

In the long term, however, transitioning to renewables is a necessity. [8] First, a new liquified natural gas truck loading facility could be opened up at Peñuelas terminal and a new regasification facility could be opened in the north coast or Aguirre. [9] LNG can be cheaply transported around the island, burns cleaner than gasoline, and is inflammable in its liquid state, providing many benefits over petroleum products. Finally, transitioning to a more widespread, renewable fuel grid could make diesel generators obsolete and fuel distribution fast and equitable after storms. [4] As diesel has a high sulfur content as compared to other fuels, generators degrade faster. Additionally, concerns of carbon monoxide poisoning when used incorrectly and in homes without ventilation leads diesel to be less desirable than renewables. Therefore, shifting to a solar grid or solar powered generators could be beneficial. Since Hurricane Maria, rooftop solar installation has doubled in households. [8] With the just passed Public Energy Policy Law of Puerto Rico, there is less regulatory approval, and it is easier to start neighborhood renewable energy projects to have fuel better distributed to begin with. [4]