Build back solar: the Puerto Ricans who see sun as key to resist climate shocks

Build back solar: the Puerto Ricans who see sun as key to resist climate shocks

Ahead of the Cop 26 climate summit, Nina Lakhani reports from Puerto Rico on the row over how to rebuild the island’s energy system in the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes

Rosalina Marrero spends the best part of each day ironing and watching telenovelas at her modest bungalow in Puerto Rico’s coastal Guayama province. When it gets too hot or her asthma plays up due to the toxic coal ash from the nearby power plant, the 78-year-old widow rests on an adjustable hospital bed, clicks on the fan and thanks God for the solar panels on her roof.

Earlier this year, Marrero was among two dozen residents in a low-income, predominantly Black neighbourhood blighted by coal pollution, fitted with a rooftop solar and storage system. Campaigners say systems like hers should be rolled out more widely to tackle the island’s energy crisis and the global climate emergency – both of which are exacerbating racialized health inequalities.

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