In May, 2018, the San Juan-based Instituto de Competitividad y Sostenibilidad and Rocky Mountain Institute of Boulder, Colorado, worked together to convene leaders to design policy solutions to Puerto Rico’s ongoing energy challenge. Participants in process included Larry Seilhamer and Eduardo Bhatia, bi-partisan senators, as well as leaders from public, private and civil society sectors, including representatives from different US and Puerto Rico government departments, lawyers, academics, engineers and community leaders. The initiative took place in what Senator Bhatia described as a “historic moment,” as organizations from across the island are putting learnings from Hurricane Maria into practice during the reconstruction process.
ICSE and RMI called on Reos Partners to help with the design and facilitation of the public collaborative. The initiative was a three-month process, which included face-to-face meetings of focused work time with participants, as well as a facilitated editing process of the final policy document.
“We converged on what the challenges are, as well as what is possible in energy policy. We also created an authentic team.” —Energy Collaborative Participant
Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico in September 2017. Several reports cite the post-Maria period as the worst electrical blackout in the history of the United States, with many homes, businesses and communities being without power for months afterward. Lack of access to electricity was cited as a main factor contributing to the loss of nearly 3,000 lives estimated from Hurricane Maria.
Participants in the public collaborative posed many questions, including:
- What could an energy future look like that is more reliant on renewables?
- What will the role of fossil fuels be?
- How will we provide equitable access to energy for all residents of Puerto Rico?
- How will we ensure more resilience in the face of future natural disasters?
- How will we work with the tensions between an existing system and the desire to create new systems?
- How will we work with one another, when some of our disagreements date back more than three decades?
Participants in the public collaborative produced a report of recommendations for policy makers, with four specific ideas about how to move forward with energy provision for the island. ICSE, RMI and Reos Partners contributed to this outcome with the following design:
- Convening a diverse group of leaders, each with a strong stake in Puerto Rico’s energy future and differing perspectives about how to get there
- Retreat-style workshops where leaders shared ideas, got to know one another more deeply, received immediate feedback on policy proposals, and in turn refined their thinking
- Edited the final policy document in a collaborative and democratic way, during which the parties worked on a draft, between and after the face-to-face working time, until all were clear about what will be published
Read the final policy document here.
“The methodology invites active participation. We were invited to both express and listen to diverse opinions in an equitable way.”
“This process was very well organized. Time was used efficiently. Differences were respected.”
“One of the highlights for me was personally getting to know certain participants who I previously considered adversaries.”
“I have made contacts that I already plan on collaborating with.”
“The process was inspiring. We talked. We listened. Through this, we reached agreements, and shifted from fighting each other to fighting for what we have in common.”