Hidroenergía Renace (in English, Hydro Energy Reborn) consists of the acquisition, restoration and generation of electricity through the hydroelectric plants of Caonillas and Dos Bocas, currently underused or in total disuse. The generative capacity of these hydroelectric plants when newly built was 43 megawatt hours. Currently, only 6 megawatts are generated by these plants, and that only sporadically. The plants have not received any significant improvements since their construction, and maintenance has been lacking. The cooperative estimates that the generative capacity of these hydroelectric plants can be improved to 50 megawatt hours. This would allow residents within mountain communities in the Cooperative's service area to benefit from a cost-effective and reliable energy source.
Under the auspices of the Hidroenergía Renace consortium, it is estimated that the project will take around 18 months from its approval of financing, estimated at about $120-150 million dollars.
The Cooperative has an unparalleled team in hydroelectric design, construction and rehabilitation benefitting from the experience and capabilities of:
Working under the consortium led by the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña, the team will collaborate in all phases of the restoration, operations and management of the hydroelectric plants. In this way, the cooperative can achieve its goals and improve the maximum generation of the hydroelectric plants.
For what reason were hydroelectric plants built in Puerto Rico?
Hydroelectric plants in Puerto Rico were built for the purpose of encouraging sugarcane agriculture and generating electricity for the entire island. Between 1907 and 1952, reservoirs were created across Puerto Rico with the purpose of putting these hydroelectric plants in operation to boost irrigation. By then the hydroelectric plants of Caonillas and Dos Bocas were the largest plants, generating electricity for the entire center of the island.
What advantages or disadvantages would the reactivation of the Dos Bocas and Caonillas hydroelectric plants have?
Advantages of reactivating the Dos Bocas and Caonillas hydroelectric plants:
• Cost-effective energy
• Economic growth for the Cordillera Central
• Direct and indirect employment for residents
• Renewabl and resilient energy generation that produces lower emissions
• Cleaner air and water
Disadvantages of reactivating the Caonillas and Dos Bocas hydroelectric plants
There are no disadvantages to the reactivation of the Caonillas and Dos Bocas hydroelectric plants. There would be no negative impact on the environment or on the initial investment because these hydroelectric plants are already built. All that remains is to optimize and maximize the existing resource.
Why is the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority going to grant us the hydroelectric plants in exchange for nothing?
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority will not give a concession for its assets "in exchange for nothing," but it is important to have a clear understanding of these hydroelectric plants . First, it is important to recognize that hydroelectric plants are our heritage and were built by our grandparents and great-grandparents. Second, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is a branch of government that is the custodian of these public assets, but that concept itself assumes and requires that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority will care for and preserve these assets. Finally, given the evidence of the lack of maintenance and investment in hydroelectric plants for decades, it is time for the people to reclaim these public resources. Possible mechanisms for transferring hydroelectric plants partially or in full include: through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP); through an agreement between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña where both parties benefit; or by act of law of the legislature signed by the Governor ordering the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to transfer the hydroelectric plants to the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña.
Utuado consumes an average of four megawatts per hour. Do hydroelectric dams have the capacity to meet the demand of all four municipalities?
Yes. Hydroelectric plants can supply not only the four municipalities, but could also supply a large portion of Ponce. Adjuntas consumes approximately three megawatts per hour, and Jayuya, Lares and Utuado each consumes approximately four megawatts per hour. When the hydroelectric plants of Caonillas and Dos Bocas came into service, they generated at maximum capacity around 43 megawatts per hour, sufficient at that time to supply the energy needs of the entire center of the island from Arecibo to Ponce. Due to lack of maintenance and investment by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, unfortunately, this same system now only generates 6 megawatts per hour …from time to time. We estimate that we can rehabilitate the hydroelectric plants to a capacity of 50 megawatts with new technology that has improved in the nearly 80 years since the plants’ construction at the end of the 1940s.
How will the residents of the Cordillera Central achieve this large-scale and impactful project?
Yes, it is true, the projects of the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña — Hidroenergía Renace, ReEnFoCo and Microrred de la Montaña — are large projects with the potential for positive and transformative impact on tens of thousands of lives in the Cordillera Central. But we don't stop doing necessary things because they are difficult or because they are novel. To be successful this project needs collaboration and cooperation. That is why these projects are formed under the structure of a cooperative. That is why the cooperative integrates the municipalities of Adjuntas, Jayuya, Lares and Utuado, so that they are participants in the project. The scope of the projects will be improved when several municipalities come together and participate in sharing the responsibilities and benefits of natural resources and the electricity they generate, and in turn, keep control of those resources in the hands of their residents. What we need is for political leaders representing the residents in the service area to come together to help accelerate development of this project.
Will the cost per kilowatt hour generated by hydroelectric plants be fixed?
Yes, the cost per kilowatt generated by hydroelectric plants will be fixed after the allocation of additional costs such as: maintenance of dams, cost to maintain the electric distribution grid, charges related to the wheeling of energy imposed by the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau, and the debt of the Electric Power Authority imposed by the Fiscal Control Board and approved by the federal court.
How is the drinking water needed by residents in their homes affected in times of drought when the hydroelectric plants are running?
First, it is important to understand where drinking water in the region comes from. The communities of Adjuntas are supplied by the Garza Lake and the Guayo Lake; Jayuya is supplied by the Caonillas Lake; and Utuado is supplied by the Dos Bocas Lake. The Caonillas and Dos Bocas system also feeds the Superaqueduct that supplies water for the metropolitan area. The two lakes and their tributaries require a permanent dredging program for which the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña can be responsible.
As a result of the above, rehabilitating and operating hydroelectric plants would not cause a major impact on the drinking water consumed by residents during times of drought since dredging and a pump storage system would increase the water storage capacity of the lakes, thus creating a reserve of water. After hydroelectric plants are restored with updated technology, less water would be used to generate more electricity, avoiding any affect by a drought on the water we consume.
When we have the hydroelectric plants, what guarantees us that when another natural disaster occurs, the owners of the distribution and transmission lines will give us priority to restore electric service?
By acquiring the hydroelectric plants, the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña will have the capacity and opportunity to negotiate all the priorities established by and for the community. In this way, the Cooperativa Hidroeléctrica de la Montaña would be fulfilling its function of improving community resilience in its service area. Hydroelectric plants offer a "Black Start" capability — which is the ability to restart the power grid after a total electric grid collapse, which is what happened with The Great Blackout in 2016 and after the Earthquake of 2020. That unique capacity of hydroelectric plants offers an advantage that allows the cooperative to ensure that the needs of the residents of the Cordillera Central are not at the end of the line. In addition, the ReEnFoCo project will provide resilient energy with photovoltaic systems for residents in remote areas or who were incommunicado after Hurricane Maria for more than four months.
What is the status of the Hydroenergy Reborn project?
On November 25, 2019, the consortium of the Hydroenergy Reborn (Hidroenergía Renace, in Spanish) project received notification from the Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3A) that they advanced from the Request for Qualification (RFQ) stage to the Request for Proposals (RFP) stage for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Hydroelectric Power Plants Revitalization Project RFQ 2019-2. Following that notification, neither the Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3A) nor the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) have issued any direct communication with the Hidroenergía Renace consortium.