According to a new report released today by the Worldwatch Institute's Climate and Energy Program, the Dominican Republic will benefit economically, socially, and environmentally if it relied more heavily on renewable energy sources and less on fossil fuels. The report, Roadmap to a Sustainable Energy System: Harnessing the Dominican Republic's Wind and Solar Resources, assesses the Caribbean country's wind and solar energy resources and provides a policy roadmap for how it can cost-effectively harness its renewable potential and reduce its dependence on energy imports.
"Developing a stable energy infrastructure that can withstand both fuel price fluctuations and looming natural disasters is extremely important for a country like the Dominican Republic," said Alexander Ochs, Director of Worldwatch's Climate and Energy Program. "Installing a renewable energy system in a country that in some years spends ten percent or more of its GDP on the burning of foreign fossil fuels while having very strong domestic renewable resources is vital for its sustained----and sustainable----development."
In recent years, the government of the Dominican Republic has committed to reducing the country's carbon footprint while providing secure and sustainable energy access to its citizens. Like many developing nations, the Dominican Republic has contributed relatively little to the world's climate crisis but is profoundly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including water shortages, reduced food production, and severe damage due to increased storm intensity and rising sea levels.
Many small-island countries are taking proactive steps to lessen their environmental impacts, including in the areas of energy, agriculture, and transportation. Yet most developing countries, including many small-island countries like the Dominican Republic, lack the technologies, finances, and effective policies needed to pursue an alternative, low-emissions growth path.
The Dominican Republic is seeking to develop a modern and sustainable energy system that is more efficient and that utilizes a high share of renewable energy. Diversifying energy sources and suppliers, minimizing energy imports, and improving infrastructure stability are key components to increasing the country's energy and economic security. "The Dominican Republic has incredible renewable energy resources," said Project Manager Mark Konold. "This Roadmap highlights the ways that the country can start taking advantage of them and model a successful change to low-carbon energy for the region."
According to the report, the Dominican Republic has extensive solar and wind resources that are largely untapped. The Worldwatch research team worked with 3TIER, a renewable resource mapping company, to develop detailed solar resource assessments for the country's two major cities, Santo Domingo and Santiago, as well as wind resource assessments in six provinces. The report explores the potential for distributed and centralized renewable power generation in the country, job creation opportunities from renewables, and challenges facing the integration of renewable energy into the existing electricity grid. It provides policy and energy planning recommendations for how the Dominican Republic can create a renewables-friendly investment climate.
"Everyone needs affordable, reliable, and secure access to energy," said Ochs. "But it's essential to our future that this need be met as much as possible through low-carbon sources. With our Sustainable Energy Roadmaps approach, Worldwatch works to expand access to energy, address social needs, and advance economic development while working toward intact local environments and a stable global climate."
Further Highlights from the Report:
- In 2010, the Dominican Republic spent $2.6 billion on fossil fuel imports, equivalent to more than 5 percent of its GDP. Additional costs arise from public subsidies as well as health care costs and other externalities. Nearly 90 percent of the country's electricity production is fossil fuel-based.
- The Dominican grid system has one of the highest rates of distribution losses in the world, nearing 38 percent in 2010. Electricity instability costs the country an estimated $1 billion-plus annually.
- The country's two major cities, Santo Domingo and Santiago, have strong solar resources,comparing favorably with most of the rest of the Caribbean region and significantly exceeding the insolation of areas in Europe and Asia where solar power penetration is currently highest.
- The Dominican Republic should incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy into a modernized grid system through holistic energy planning. Complementary resources from different geographic locations can be integrated into the national grid to reduce the variability of renewable generation.
- The right policy mix is vital to a sustainable energy transition. The Dominican government has shown strong commitment to a sustainable energy future, including developing a target of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, creating financial incentives to promote renewable energy, and aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by 50 percent relative to 2010 levels,. These policies and incentives need to be fully implemented and supported with strong funding.
- Administrative procedures for renewable energy investment should be simplified and streamlined----project developers currently need to go through a 14-step process to get a renewable energy license. Creating a single administrative window for renewable energy permitting would help reduce this bureaucratic burden.
- International financing, including climate finance, can help the Dominican Republic fund its transition to sustainable energy.
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