After Hurricane Maria razed the electrical grid in Puerto Rico nearly six years ago, there was a lot of talk about making the energy system more resilient in the face of climate change and sure-to-occur future calamities. “In practice, the opposite occurred,” says Northeastern doctoral candidate Alaina Kinol, who with professor Laura Kuhl co-authored an analysis published this July in Current Research in Environmental Sustainability. The researchers say the aftermath of the Category 4 hurricane actually reinforced prevailing power structures and technological systems.
“This is an enormous problem, because we know that transforming existing systems to be more resilient is essential to limit human and environmental harm as climate change continues and we see increasing frequency and intensity of disasters,” Kuhl says. Some climate policy experts may cling to the idea that disasters have the potential to quickly transform policies to increase resilience to future events, Kuhl and Kinol say.
The analysis shows that in Puerto Rico, “they are rebuilding their previous system, despite public calls for decentralized solar energy that would be better equipped to handle another hurricane in the future,” Kinol says.