In September 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and resulted in one of the most severe blackouts in U.S. history, leaving more than 10,000 people without electricity for months after the storm. The challenges in the restoration efforts ignited a conversation on the application of microgrids and other associated technologies in providing resilience to the reconstructed grid system. Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables is expanding its research into microgrids and has requested the Columbia University Capstone Team to monitor, assess, and project the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s grid system, with an emphasis on the emerging technologies and business models used in advanced microgrids.

The Capstone team built the most comprehensive database on microgrids in Puerto Rico to date through internal research and external interviews with developers, technology vendors, utilities, regulatory authorities, and other stakeholders. The database contains over 40 projects, both existed and planned, accounted for a total capacity of 145 MW. Based on the data collected and the current regulatory framework summarized, the team built a model and conducted a five-year forecast on the microgrid market in Puerto Rico.

The team found that Puerto Rico is a relatively small market for microgrids, in which few large projects account for the majority of installed capacity, and the primary driver for new installations are grid resiliency, access to clean energy and reliable supply of electricity. Under the uncertainties in the current regulatory landscape, in the five years to come, the team expects limited capacity growth in 2019 and 2020, with a significant rise in 2021 and 2022, and steady growth afterward.