Jul 262012

 Thursday, July 26, 2012 – Lisa Friedman, E&E reporter

The Dominican Republic has “extensive” solar and wind resources and will be able to meet the  government’s ambitious renewable energy goals, a new study has found. Yet the Caribbean  nation’s road map — among the first of its kind — cautions that while the Dominican Republic has made important strides in weaning itself off fossil fuels and reducing its carbon footprint, it still needs stronger domestic policies and international funding to succeed.

“I think the Dominican Republic has to be credited. It’s a developing country, and it has really gone through the paradigm change that I wish so many other countries would have already gone through,” said Alexander Ochs, director of climate and energy at the Worldwatch Institute, which developed the study. “They have come a long way, and they have a long way to go,” Ochs said. But, he added, “I think the Dominican Republic can become a model country.”

 The study is part of a pilot project supported by the Energy and Environment Partnership in Central America (EEP), with guidance from the National Energy Commission of the Dominican Republic. Ochs noted that a fuller socioeconomic assessment that examines how different energy pathways in the Dominican Republic could affect electricity prices is due out next year. Similar studies in Haiti and Jamaica also are under way, with some in Central America on the horizon.

The Dominican Republic, like many island nations, will be hurt by climate change, and spending money to address things like rising sea levels or fiercer storm surges will drain dollars from objectives like transitioning the country’s energy system. Yet that very system, which in the Dominican Republic relies heavily on fossil fuel imports, “has hurt them so dramatically,” Ochs said.

The report argues that with 88 percent of the country’s electricity supply coming from fossil fuel imports (the remainder produced with domestic hydroelectric resources), about $2.6 billion annually, or 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, is thus exported.

“This comes at an enormous, ridiculous economic price,” Ochs said. “Instead of using the money to create wealth and jobs domestically, this money is shipped overseas. We’re arguing that it’s much better used in the country, because they have enormous resources there.”

The Dominican government in large part agrees. It recently set an aggressive target of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. It also aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent below 2010 levels by 2030.The report found that the Dominican Republic’s two largest cities, Santo Domingo and Santiago, have strong solar resources. Researchers calculated that each new megawatt of photovoltaic capacity in the country can create 20 manufacturing jobs, 30 installation jobs and one maintenance job.

Each new megawatt of wind capacity, meanwhile, is calculated to create 16 manufacturing and component supply jobs; five jobs from wind farm development, installation, and indirect employment; and 0.33 operation and maintenance jobs. But what the country needs, researchers argued, is a reliable supply chain for clean energy technology and to incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency into a modernized grid through what it calls “holistic” energy planning. They also noted that the country needs streamlined administrative procedures for clean energy investments — currently, project developers go through a 14-step process for a license — as well as international funding to help jump-start the country’s transition.


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