This week the Dominican Republic began official operation of a new transmission line running between its two largest cities, Santo Domingo and Santiago. This comes on the heels of the Inter-American Develop Bank’s recent approval of two loans totaling US $78.3 million for two new wind farms in the country. These new developments complement last month’s announcement from the Comisión Nacional de Energía (CNE) introducing a new net metering regulation. All three advancements are great steps towards addressing issues of electricity stabilization and increasing consumer participation in the move towards widespread use of renewable energy.
The new 345 kilovolt (KV) transmission line is the first of its kind in the country. The national grid, divided among three regional operators, is composed mostly of 69 KV transmission lines with 135 KV lines in some of the more populated and tourist-oriented areas of the country. The new transmission line is supported by two substations and spans the 130 km between Santo Domingo and Santiago. It is overseen by the country’s electricity transmission company, Empresa de Transmisión Eléctrica Dominicana (ETED), and came at a cost of just over USD $170 million. Officials hope that it will help alleviate unreliable electricity in the Cibao Valley region. It also helps prepare the country to handle new generation capacity soon to come online, including both wind and solar projects.
Some of that new capacity is expected to come from the two IADB-funded wind farms. In total they are expected to add 80.6 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the country’s overall capacity. The 50 MW Parques Eólicos del Caribe will be located in Guanillo, in the Monte Cristi province, and is expected to cost US $127 million. Meanwhile, Grupo Eólico Dominicano, will develop a wind farm in Baní, in the province of Peravia. The 30.6 MW project has an estimated cost of US $68.9 million.
On June 30th, CNE announced that it had finished crafting regulation for net metering in the Dominican Republic. This mechanism will allow consumers to reduce their monthly utility bill by supplanting electricity consumption from the grid with power generated from their own renewable sources such as solar photovoltaics (PV). Additionally, any surplus electricity the user generates can be sold back to grid operators at a set price. While this framework was developed independently of the construction of the new high voltage transmission line, it is fortuitous that the line runs between highly populated areas where a higher number of citizens can now capitalize on the presence of technologically advanced bi-directional meters.
These new additions to the country’s electricity sector represent important steps forward. Up to this point, renewable energy fanfare has centered on large, utility scale projects such as the country’s extensive collection of hydropower dams, but those hydropower resources are dwindling. Also receiving attention has been the soon-to-open wind farm in Los Cocos which ReVolt has recently highlighted.
Despite this progress, some challenges and questions remain. First of all, it is not fully clear which entity will operate the new high voltage line. Secondly, distributed generation (DG) is not widespread in the Dominican Republic. Should net metering take off, it could present a formidable challenge for both ETED and the distribution companies it oversees. Lastly, while these advancements might immediately benefit consumers in largely populated areas like Santo Domingo and Santiago, benefits to rural communities are less certain. While the two new wind farms come with plans for 138 KV lines to help connect them to the national grid, significant grid modernization will still be necessary, particularly beyond main corridors like the one between Santiago and Santo Domingo.
Regardless of these questions, the Dominican Republic is making important strides towards a clean energy future. The new 345 KV line will help achieve the goals set out by the state-owned holding company for the electricity sector, Corporación Dominicana de Empresas Electricas Estatales (CDEEE), particularly its aim to reduce transmission losses by 5 to 8 percent. The new wind capacity and net metering regulation are clear outcomes of the country’s law 57-07 to incentivize renewable energy. These advancements prove the Caribbean nation is taking concrete steps towards an improved and more sustainable energy future.