On September 13, 2018 Miguel Román and Edil Sepúlveda Carlo of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center hosted a group of professors from the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez (UPRM). In attendance, were Professors Dr. Pérez Lugo and Dr. Ortiz García. Lugo and García are co-founders of the National Institute for Energy and Island Sustainability (INESI in Spanish), which is the only interdisciplinary and inter-campus institute of the University of Puerto Rico system.
INESI includes the university community in Puerto Rico’s energy policy and seeks to resolve energy and sustainability problems using empirical research and academic knowledge. Dr. David Green, Program Manager of the Earth Science Disasters Program at NASA Headquarters, as well as Shanna McClain, Risk and Resilience Coordinator at NASA Headquarters, were present at the meeting.
During the meeting, Miguel Román provided an overview of the Black Marble Science Team efforts to support Puerto Rico’s recovery following the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and discussed future plans from the NASA Disasters Program to further develop disaster risk reduction and resilience efforts across Puerto Rico and the wider Caribbean region. The Disasters Program is supporting the Island Communities and Areas of Intensive Risk (CAIR) project, which looks to understand vulnerabilities and contribute to long-term resilience and risk reduction efforts in the wider Caribbean region. The Disasters Program plans to use Puerto Rico as a launching platform of the CAIR project in the Caribbean region, and plans for a workshop and training in 2019.
The visiting professors from the University of Puerto Rico gave a presentation to the Disasters Program highlighting the role of universities in Puerto Rico’s reconstruction and resilience. They provided a background on the creation and evolution of the Energy Institute (INESI), and focused on the results and lessons learned from the energy stakeholder forums held for the last several years throughout Puerto Rico. From those stakeholder meetings a common vision for Puerto Rico’s electrical system was identified, as well as the causes for the vulnerability of the grid. The visiting professors also provided their experience and lessons learned in post-disaster relief and resilience after Maria, with a particular focus in the creation of resilience through innovation in sustainable energy (RISE) inter-university convergence collaborative platform. Future collaborations in the context of the CAIR project were discussed, and some opportunity areas were identified.