Dominican Republic: “A Major Leap” in Renewables

Wednesday, June 28, 2023
The Dominican Republic is seeing a boom these days in renewable energy, with 17 projects under construction. What accounts for this success? And what steps is the country taking to stay ahead of the challenges?


Antonio Almonte, Minister of Energy and Mines, credited sound public policies—including less bureaucracy and more transparency—with spurring “a major leap” in renewable energy in the Dominican Republic. Fourteen of the new projects underway are solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and the others are wind power.

By the end of this year, the minister said, the projects will add around 800 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy to the electricity mix, putting the country in striking distance to meet one of its goals—to generate 25% of its electricity from renewables by 2025.

“If we don’t reach it, it’s possible we can come pretty close,” said Almonte, a nuclear engineer by training who has led the Energy Ministry since President Luis Abinader took office in August 2020.


Energy ministers from around the region will meet in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on March 14-15, 2024, for the Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas. The theme: “Renewable Energy in the Americas: Integration and Innovation.

His remarks came during a wide-ranging interview with the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA)—part of a recent webinar on “Clean Energy Integration for a Sustainable Future.” Juan Cruz Monticelli, who coordinates the ECPA initiative and serves as Sustainable Energy Chief at the Organization of American States (OAS), conducted the interview and a panel discussion. It was the first of several events that will lay the groundwork for the upcoming Sixth ECPA Ministerial Meeting, which the Dominican Republic will host next March. The theme will be “Renewable Energy in the Americas: Integration and Innovation.”

Almonte explained that the “spark” that has inspired the Dominican Republic to go all-in on renewable energy has been the country’s heavy dependence on imported fossil fuels.

“Our country does not produce any type of fuel, not coal, not fuel oil, not petroleum, not gas,” he said. Nor can it turn to neighbors for help, he added, noting that the only country with which it shares a border, Haiti, does not produce enough energy to meet its own needs.

To reduce vulnerability to global oil prices and enable its dynamic economy to keep growing, the Dominican Republic must take a flexible approach and optimize the use of all resources at its disposal, Almonte said. “We’re working to ensure that renewable sources become very significant in terms of the electricity supply in the country,” he said.

Sound public policies have spurred a boom in renewable energy, according to the Minister of Energy and Mines, Antonio Almonte. Credit:

The current administration has drastically reduced the red tape required for renewable energy projects, he said, so that proposals can be processed across the different agencies involved without unwarranted delay. It has brought “transparency and seriousness” to the licensing and permitting process, Almonte said, so that developers and investors know exactly what to expect.

The government has also been offering long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs), which provide assurance that the investment will generate a return. “PPA contracts have been a very important lever for us to attract investors,” Almonte said.

The business community has been paying attention. According to Ricardo Estevez, Senior Development Manager for the Dominican energy company EGE Haina, companies that are organized and turn in their paperwork on time can go from an initial proposal to a project in operation in less than two years.

“Everybody’s building in the Dominican Republic,” he said during a panel discussion at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF), held in April in Miami. With its transparent process and clear policies, he said, the Dominican government is “sending a clear signal that it’s open to business to the whole world.”


Challenges Ahead


One major challenge the country is facing is the need to replace its aging electricity distribution system. Credit:

That is not to say that all the country’s energy problems have been solved. In fact, during the recent webinar, on June 15, Energy Minister Almonte noted that a heat wave across the island nation was putting an unprecedented strain on the electric grid.

Despite all the progress the country is making on the energy front—not only by expanding solar and wind power but also adding combined-cycle natural gas plants and a gas terminal—one major challenge is the need to overhaul the electricity distribution system, Almonte said. He described the country’s electricity networks, transformers, and substations as “outdated” and “very fragile.”

Meanwhile, demand for electricity among households and businesses has been surging. Peak consumption during a heat wave now tops 3,300 MW, up from less than 3,000 a year or two ago, Almonte said. “The distribution system that we have does not support that growth in demand,” he added.

And a growing reliance on renewable energy brings its own challenges. Almonte talked about some of the steps the government has been taking to add capacity and stability to the grid and to shore up the transmission system. Another Dominican official—Edward Veras, Executive Director of the National Energy Commission (CNE)—also discussed some of these challenges during an interview with ECPA at the conference in Miami.


Storage and Stability


One area that has emerged as a priority is the need to add energy storage to accommodate the larger amounts of intermittent renewable energy, especially solar, in the electric power system.

Solar PV is not only a clean source of energy, but it has a clear cost advantage over fossil fuels. “Today, solar energy, at least in the Dominican Republic, is half the price of thermal energy,” Veras said.

However, the sun can disappear behind clouds at times during the day, and of course it does not shine at night. That means both short-term and long-term storage solutions are needed, Veras explained—the former to help stabilize the grid by compensating for fluctuations during the day and the latter to extend the hours in which the country can take advantage of solar power.

Intermittent renewable energy currently accounts for about 14% of the country’s energy capacity, according to Veras. That includes not only utility-scale projects, he said, but about 300 MW of rooftop solar as well. Beyond the target of 25% renewables by 2025, the country has established a 30% target by 2030.

However, once all the renewable energy projects currently under construction and others in earlier stages of the process have been completed, the system will not be able to handle much more solar PV in the daytime and still remain stable, Veras said.

“That solar power needs to be shifted to the evening, using long-duration storage,” he said.

One step the government is taking is to establish rules requiring new large-scale renewable energy projects to incorporate a certain percentage of storage capacity. Projects between 50 and 100 MW in size must include at least 30% of that capacity in battery storage, with the percentage increasing for larger projects, Veras said.

While some projects may not be financially viable today under those terms, the government expects that storage prices will come down, just as they have in recent years in the case of solar panels, Veras said.

“We’re betting that technological development and the storage technology industry will increase in the world and will allow us to have cheaper prices for the use of storage,” he said.


The Transmission Conundrum


The Dominican Republic is in the process of upgrading and expanding its transmission infrastructure. Credit:

Another challenge the Dominican Republic is facing has to do with its transmission system—in other words, the long-distance, high-voltage lines that take electricity from a generating plant to the network of substations that then distribute it to homes and businesses.

Traditionally, power plants that burns fossil fuels tend to be located near key population centers, creating natural energy hubs. But renewable energy must be generated where the best resources are, which may be far from the existing electric grid. Instead of having one large power plant and one transmission line, Veras explained, there now may need to be 10 or 20 or 30 power plants, each requiring a transmission solution.

By law, the electricity transmission system in the Dominican Republic is under state control; it is owned and operated by the state-owned Empresa de Transmisión Eléctrica Dominicana (ETED). That makes sense from a national security standpoint, Veras said, but also from an economic one. Unlike a for-profit company, which needs to generate a return on investment in a shorter term, a public company can spread the costs of transmission lines over a much longer period.

Several Dominican officials and company representatives who spoke at the CREF conference in Miami agreed that investment in renewable energy has been outpacing investment in transmission. Some developers said that they had built stretches of transmission lines, with the approval of the state-owned transmission company, to get their projects up and running in a timely manner.

Almonte said during the recent webinar that the expansion of the transmission system is well underway, including the construction of a new high-voltage (345 kV) transmission line.

“We expect that in a couple of years, we will have a national transmission system that is quite robust,” he said.

Almonte stressed the importance of electricity to the expansion and sustainability of the country’s economy and said that the Dominican people understand this and support the development of renewable energy. The ministerial meeting in March, he said, will help raise more public awareness about the importance of this issue to the country and to the broader region.

Cover Image: The Monte Plata solar park, located northeast of the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, has been operating since 2016. There are currently 17 renewable energy projects under construction in the country. Credit: Soventix.