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Puerto Rico’s Path to Power System Decarbonization

By Antonio Gozain | Fri, 10/22/2021 - 08:42

With only 3 percent of the power being generated by renewables, Puerto Rico is committed to switching to 100 percent carbon neutral power generation by 2050, a “realistic dream,” said Jussi Heikkinen, Director of Growth and Development at Wärtsilä.

Puerto Rico’s plan, which includes two checkpoints (40 percent renewable power in 2025 and 60 percent in 2040), was modeled through PLEXOS Energy Market Simulation Software by the Wärtsilä Latin America team, said Heikkinen during the second day of the company’s Flexible Power Symposium focused on the region. The company specializes in studying and understanding power markets in Latin America and the Caribbean to propose solutions or possible paths to achieve decarbonization, explained Silvia Zumárraga, Market Development Manager at Wärtsilä.

PLEXOS is a “simulation engine that provides analytics and decision-support to modelers, generators, and market analysts, which unlike other optimization platforms, offers both flexible and precise simulations across several markets, such electric, water, gas and renewable energy,” reads the software’s webpage.

Inputs utilized to model Puerto Rico’s path to its power system decarbonization included all the country’s power plants, “fully parameterized,” hourly wind and solar generation profiles until 2050, hourly load forecast until 2050, renewable share targets and all potential generation and technology candidates “fully parameterized,” with price learning curves, explained Heikkinen.

PLEXOS software also serves the load every hour, while optimizing capacity mix for lowest electricity costs and reaching carbon reduction targets.

To achieve the objectives marked by Puerto Rico’s government, the country must follow an optimal path and solve short and long-term energy storage issues, according to Heikkinen. The model proposes “an instant solar expansion; the second step is to build flexible gas plants in 2023.”. By following these first steps, and adding a “solar battery storage combo,” PLEXOS forecasts a45 percent renewable power in the country by 2025, fulfilling the 40 percent target for that year.

The rest of the model includes the retirement of old coal power plants by 2028 and a gradual addition of solar and shifter battery storage from 2028 to 2038, when old CCGTs will be removed as well. By following these steps, Puerto Rico will reach 90 percent decarbonization by 2040, surpassing the 60 percent target. By 2047, flexible plants will switch to renewable fuels and in 2050, 100 percent carbon neutral electricity will be achieved. During the proposed process, CO2 emissions will drop “drastically,” while power generation costs will gradually decrease up to 59 percent of the current cost by 2050.

The role of flexible gas power plants, set to be built in 2023, is to “fill the energy gaps created by variable output of renewables with low carbon electricity using natural gas,” said Heikkinen. Additionally, these plants minimize curtailment of renewables by going offline when not needed, avoid “major overbuild” of renewables and battery storage and enable 100 percent green power by being ready to convert to green-hydrogen based fuels, such as hydrogen, ammonia, carbon-neutral methanol and methane. By doing this, investments are protected, because flexible gas power plants are se to be “not only part of the transition but also part of the final solution,” said Heikkinen.

Like Puerto Rico, Chile and many other countries, Mexico has set a carbon neutral power system goal for 2050. As of 2019, 24 percent of the power generated in Mexico is produced by clean energy sources, such as wind, solar bioenergy, geothermal, hydroelectric and nuclear power, according to the US International Trade Administration.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
MBN, Wärtsilä, PLEXOS
Antonio Gozain Antonio Gozain Journalist and Industry Analyst