The Dominican Republic is making strides in promoting renewable energy as a way to reduce its heavy dependence on imported fossil fuels. As part of our work collaborating with government and private stakeholders to develop low-carbon energy roadmaps for the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries, the Worldwatch Institute is conducting socioeconomic impact assessments for planned and potential renewable energy projects, focusing on solar and wind for the current stage of the analysis. The Dominican Republic has several solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power projects lined up, and the renewable resource potential to significantly expand on these investments. Examining the job creation potential of these renewable energy projects is an important first step toward understanding the full scope of benefits that renewable energy can provide, especially with high levels of unemployment in the Dominican Republic – 14.2 percent in 2010.
Despite a rapidly growing economy (7.8 percent GDP growth in 2010), about half of the Dominican population lives below the poverty line. One reason that economic growth has failed to translate fully into widespread socioeconomic benefits is the Dominican Republic’s dependence on fossil fuel imports. The Dominican economy is highly susceptible to oil price shocks, with oil imports accounting for 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010, down from 9 percent during the global price spike in 2008. Domestic renewable generation can reduce economic vulnerability due to reliance on fossil fuel imports, but can it create enough jobs to tackle the country’s unemployment and improve the standard of living?
Electricity jobs are generally divided into two categories: construction, installation and manufacturing (CIM) jobs, and operation and maintenance (O&M) jobs. CIM jobs are concentrated in the first few years it takes to set up a generation facility, while most O&M jobs remain in place for the entire lifetime of the installation. However, estimates for CIM jobs can be averaged out over the expected lifetime of new projects in order to give a clearer idea of long-term job creation. This calculation is especially useful for country-wide estimates where one can assume that new facility installations will be ongoing for years to come. In general, renewable generation plants are significantly more labor-intensive than oil-fired plants for both the CIM and O&M stages. Furthermore, because the Dominican Republic has to import fossil fuels to power its facilities, jobs from fuel extraction and processing for these power plants remain in the countries with fossil resources.
Several PV and wind projects are already in the pipeline to be built in the Dominican Republic over the next two years. The Grupo Empresas Dominicanas de Energia Renovable (GEDER) has two solar PV plants planned: a 30 megawatt (MW) facility in Monteplata which has already received a concession, and a nearby 20 MW facility that could start construction as early as this December. An additional 60 MW PV project is planned in Azua province.
As for wind, the Los Cocos and Quilvio facilities are expected to begin operation this month with a combined capacity of 33 MW, with the potential for an additional 75 MW expansion. The Matafongo and El Guanillo wind farms are expected to come online late this year or early in 2012 with a combined capacity of 98 MW.
In collaboration with the European Photovoltaic Industry Association and the Global Wind Energy Council, Greenpeace International has developed job creation estimates for solar PV and wind projects at the global level. Based on current levels of labor input, the PV study estimates that each new MW of PV capacity will create 20 manufacturing jobs, 30 installation jobs, and one maintenance job. Assuming a 25 year lifetime of PV installations, the manufacturing and installation jobs can be averaged to 0.8 and 1.2 annual jobs per MW, respectively.
The wind study estimates that each new MW of wind capacity will create 16 manufacturing and component supply jobs, 5 jobs from wind farm development, installation, and indirect employment, and 0.33 O&M jobs. Again assuming a 25 year lifetime for wind capacity, manufacturing and installation jobs can be averaged to 0.64 and 0.2 annual jobs, respectively.
For comparison, these PV and wind job creation figures are significantly higher than what could be expected from continuing to rely on oil-fired generation. Natural gas plants, a technology similar to oil generation, create only 0.03 annual CIM jobs and 0.1 O&M jobs per MW of capacity.
Applying the PV and wind job estimates to the total planned capacity of the projects listed above, estimated jobs per year total 220 for manufacturing, 173 for installation, and 178 for O&M (571 jobs total) over the projects’ lifetimes.
The Worldwatch Institute’s low-carbon roadmap for the Dominican Republic includes a detailed renewable resource assessment to assist project planners in selecting additional sites for development. Detailed data generated by Worldwatch partner 3TIER, a renewable energy risk analysis firm that produces GIS maps showcasing renewable potential, show that the Dominican Republic as a whole has a strong solar resource with the potential for grid-scale development, especially in the western part of the country. The DR’s largest cities, Santo Domingo and Santiago, while not receiving the greatest solar radiation in the Dominican Republic, are still attractive locations for distributed PV generation due to integration efficiencies and economies of scale for siting solar generation within these population centers. The amount of future solar capacity (and therefore job creation potential) in the Dominican Republic depends more on the investment environment than the solar resource, which is substantial.
Worldwatch and 3TIER also conducted high-resolution wind mapping – 4.5 kilometer (km) by 4.5 km grid points – in six zones in the Dominican Republic chosen by the government’s National Energy Commission (CNE) based on wind resource, grid access and potential intrusion on protected areas. In total, 78 map points around the cities of Pedernales, Bani and Montecristi had strong wind potential. Assuming that all of these favorable sites were to be fully developed (by each accommodating 20 wind turbines of 3 MW each), the Dominican Republic could add an additional 4,680 MW of wind capacity. Based on the job creation figures above, this could provide an additional 3,000 manufacturing jobs, 1,000 installation jobs, and 1,500 O&M jobs over the lifetime of the wind facilities – or 5,500 jobs total.
Renewable energy development offers the Dominican Republic promising employment opportunities rather than transferring its wealth out of the country to pay for fossil fuel imports. In order to realize the full job creation benefits of its renewable potential, the Dominican Republic needs to engage in capacity building and local job training to capture the in-country employment opportunities. Currently, most manufacturing jobs will be concentrated in countries that are already manufacturing renewable equipment. In order to benefit from these jobs, the Dominican Republic needs to expand its domestic manufacturing base to allow for production of renewable energy equipment, and train a skilled labor force to install, operate and maintain the new facilities. These efforts will assist the transition to a green economy and, if properly implemented, can provide high-quality employment to local workers so the Dominican Republic can stop importing fossil fuels and exporting jobs.