Climate scientists were surprised to discover that U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions recently decreased to levels not seen since 1992. While renewable energy has no doubt contributed to this recent trend, it is clear that the “shale gas revolution” and the recent U.S. transition away from coal and toward natural gas generation has had a very large impact on this encouraging trend.

The LNG terminal in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Source: Chicago Bridge & Iron)

One region where interest in natural gas has grown recently is the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago is already a global supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are LNG importers, and nations like Haiti and Jamaica are considering building LNG import terminals of their own. LNG—the liquid form of natural gas that has one-six hundredth the volume per unit of energy of naturally occurring natural gas—is the form in which gas is typically shipped overseas. LNG imports are gaining traction in the Caribbean region, where tanker ships offload the fuel to be re-gasified and used to fuel natural gas power plants.

As seen in the United States, natural gas can play a significant role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Moreover, at least in the United States, a shale gas boom has led to very low natural gas prices, making it cost competitive with almost any other source of power generation. However, it is unclear whether such benefits would translate to small island nations. The question that begs analysis is whether or not natural gas—in the form of imported LNG—is appropriate for small countries like those in the Caribbean region.

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Caribbean, Dominican Republic, energy, energy security, Haiti, liquefied natural gas, LNG, natural gas

Worldwatch presents the Wind & Solar Roadmap to energy and government officials in the Dominican Republic. (From Left: Hon. Pelegrin Castillo, National District Representative; Manuel Pena, National Energy Commission; Maria Eugenia Salaverria, Energy and Climate Partnership of Central America; Mr. Enrique Ramirez, National Energy Commission President; Alexander Ochs; Mark Konold; Mr. Omar Ramirez, Executive President of the National Council for Climate Change and the Clean Development Mechanism

Yesterday the Climate & Energy Program of the Worldwatch Institute officially launched its first Sustainable Energy Roadmap in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Roadmap, which was completed with financial support from the Energy & Environment Partnership in Central America (EEP) and with guidance from the National Energy Commission of the Dominican Republic (CNE), focuses on strategies the government of the Dominican Republic can use to begin moving toward a more sustainable energy future.

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 also 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 then examines the Dominican Republic’s energy regulatory framework and the current status of the country’s financial sector for supporting renewable energy growth. Finally, the Roadmap contains strong and actionable recommendations the government can follow to begin ramping up the presence of renewable energy, drawing down its dependence on fossil fuel imports and creating an energy future that is socially, environmentally and financially more sustainable.

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Caribbean, Climate Change, Dominican Republic, energy, energy security, low-carbon, renewable energy

The Most Hon. Edward Seaga (UTech President & former Prime Minister), The Most Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller (Prime Minister) and H.E. Josef Beck (German Ambassador) at the Opening Ceremony on 16 May 2012. Photo courtesy of the German Embassy in Kingston.

Recently I was asked to participate in a Sustainable Energy Conference hosted by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Kingston and the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech). The four-day event, which included considerable participation from the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Program (CREDP), was a great opportunity to highlight the importance of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Jamaica. It was also a chance to continue the important debate over how quickly renewable energy can be adopted on the island.

Jamaica is currently one of three Caribbean countries for which Worldwatch is preparing a Sustainable Energy Roadmap. This project, sponsored by the International Climate Initiative of the German Ministry of the Environment, will provide decision-makers in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica with a Roadmap containing concrete recommendations for promoting a more sustainable energy future.

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Caribbean, energy, energy policy, energy security, Jamaica, renewable energy, sustainable development

Following the devastating 2010 earthquake, much of Haiti’s infrastructure, including its already limited ability to manage its municipal solid waste (MSW), was damaged or destroyed. Due largely to lack of public waste management services and sewage treatment centers, thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands more have suffered through outbreaks of cholera. Haiti needs improved sanitation, and improving and building infrastructure to reliably collect MSW will help achieve this goal.

Improved MSW management can also increase power generation from domestic sources in Haiti, providing some relief from its dependence on imported heavy fuel oil and helping to electrify a country where 75 percent of people do not have access to the grid.

Caribbean, developing countries, Haiti, health, renewable energy, sustainable development, waste-to-energy

In a previous blog, I discussed the value of pumped-storage hydro systems, especially when it comes to integrating intermittent renewable energies like wind and solar into a power system. However, traditional pumped-storage hydro systems require two reservoirs of fresh water (one upper and one lower), which are not always available at locations that might otherwise benefit from an energy storage system. An exciting technology that tackles this problem – requiring only one on-land reservoir – and that has gained recent momentum is seawater pumped-storage hydro.

An aerial view of the seawater pumped-storage hydro system on Okinawa Island (Source:

Seawater pumped-storage hydro works similarly to traditional systems. Excess electricity from fossil fuel, nuclear, or renewable energy power plants is used during periods of low power demand to pump water uphill to be stored in reservoirs as potential energy. Then, when demand peaks the reservoirs are opened, allowing water to pass through hydroelectric turbines to generate the electricity needed to meet power demand. The main difference for seawater pumped-storage is that instead of having a lake, river, or some other source of fresh water serve as the lower reservoir, these systems pump salt water uphill from the ocean to a land reservoir above. This lowers the system’s fresh water footprint and greatly expands the potential for pumped-storage hydro worldwide because seawater pumped-storage is much less site-specific than traditional systems.

There is currently one seawater pumped-storage hydro system operating in the world, on the northern coast of Okinawa Island, Japan. The system began operation in 1999 and has the potential to generate up to 30 megawatts (MW) of power. The hydropower plant has a total head – the vertical distance, or drop, between the intake of the plant and the turbine – of 136 meters and the upper reservoir is located just 600 meters from the coast.

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Caribbean, energy storage, hydropower, Innovation, pumped-hydro storage, renewable energy, wind power

In November of 2011 a solar photovoltaic (PV) energy project began construction on the roof of the “National Energy Commission” (CNE) headquarters in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  CNE is the institution responsible for overseeing the energy sector in the Dominican Republic.  The solar PV energy project was completed in January 2012 with a total installed capacity of 22 kilowatts (kW) and an estimated annual generation of 35,358 kWh, around 20 percent of the building’s annual electricity consumption.  The solar PV energy system is connected to the utility grid Edesur under a net metering contract. CNE is using the solar panels to help mitigate its use of electricity from traditional fossil fuel sources, such as coal, fuel oil, and diesel.  The project’s main goals are to lower the headquarters’ greenhouse gas emissions and to demonstrate for others the feasibility of installing solar PV energy systems on roofs.

The solar PV system at CNE's headquarters (Source: CNE).

This project was made possible by the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americans (ECPA), which was created in 2009 in order to fund energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Caribbean governments to join the ECPA Caribbean Partnership, which is administered by the Organization of American States (OAS) and is supported financially by the Department of State.  In addition, Secretary Clinton announced that members will receive grants to improve renewable energy development.  In 2010, Caribbean governments submitted over 20 proposals to the OAS for renewable energy development projects.  The OAS awarded technical assistance to six projects in six countries.  One of the six projects was for the construction of a solar PV energy system at the CNE headquarters. In addition to receiving assistance from the OAS, CNE received assistance from the Caribbean Renewable Energy Development Programme (CREDP), which is administered by the “German Society for International Cooperation” (GIZ) and is supported financially by the Austrian Development Agency. The total cost of the project was around US$ 130,000 with ECPA contributing US$ 65,000, CREDP contributing US$ 35,000, and CNE contributing US$ 30,000.

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Caribbean, Dominican Republic, emissions reductions, renewable energy, solar power

This is the translation of a previous post, “The Fifth “E”: Is Energy Becoming a Presidential Priority in Haiti”. To read the original in English, please click here 

Aux quatre priorités que le président Martelly a identifiées pour son mandat, éducation, emploi, environnement, état de droit, qui composent les quatre « E », s’est ajoutée une cinquième priorité, l’énergie. Lors des ateliers sur l’énergie organisés par Dr. René Jean-Jumeau, Secrétaire d’Etat à l’Energie le 27-28 septembre, le Président a insisté sur l’impact désastreux des usages actuels de l’énergie sur la couverture végétale, et la nécessité d’une transition vers des sources d’énergie plus propres. Il a conclu : « nous avons besoin d’électricité pour développer l’industrie dont Haïti a besoin, nous avons besoin d’électricité dans nos campagnes, afin que s’estompent des soirs des ténèbres sans lune. » Le premier ministre Garry Conille a également repris ces priorités lors de son discours de politique générale.

La semaine de l'Energie s'est deroulee les 6-12 novembre dans les Caraibes.

Du 7 au 11 novembre, la Semaine de l’Energie s’est tenue au Parc Historique de la Canne à Sucre et à la faculté des Sciences de l’UEH, pour la première fois en Haïti. Pendant 5 jours, étudiants, personnel académique, entrepreneurs, hommes d’affaires, acteurs de la coopération internationale, ainsi que les hauts responsables du gouvernement ont discuté de l’énergie sous tous ses angles, et de son rôle essentiel dans la reconstruction et le développement d’Haïti. Cette exposition, ouverte à tous, a montré les technologies disponibles en Haïti pour substituer le charbon de bois, et améliorer l’efficience des réchauds utilisés actuellement, augmenter de manière signifiante l’électrification du pays, et développer les ressources renouvelables.

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Caribbean, distributed energy, Energy Access, energy planning, Haiti, natural gas, renewable energy, rural electrification

As discussed in a previous blog, Haiti remains largely dependent on charcoal and fuelwood for its energy services. This reliance has contributed to Haiti’s remarkable level of deforestation – only three percent of its original forest cover remains – and has led the government to begin considering energy alternatives. Previously, I described the costs and benefits of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and other energy alternatives like efficient cookstoves and waste paper briquettes. Below is an examination of another energy source that has gained some footing in Haiti recently: the jatropha tree.

Jatropha seedlings at a pilot project in Haiti (Source: Chibas).

The jatropha tree can grow in arid climates with poor soil quality, making it very suitable for a country like Haiti that has largely deforested and degraded lands. One study estimates that 1.114 million hectares of jatropha production could meet Haiti’s entire energy demand, and since 500,000 hectares of degraded hillside are available for jatropha production in Haiti, it could realistically replace much of the country’s current charcoal consumption without displacing food crops.

Jatropha could prove to be a useful crop, especially in the Haitian context, because of its diverse services. In terms of the electricity and transportation sectors, with some processing, jatropha oil can be blended into biodiesel and used for power generation or fueling cars. Unprocessed jatropha vegetable oil could also be used to fuel kerosene lamps and could even power households or small community electricity generators with little to no alterations.

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biomass, Caribbean, electricity, energy policies, energy security, Haiti, jatropha, renewable energy, sustainable development

A World Bank report concludes that liquified natural gas is the least-cost option for powering Haiti by 2028, but notes that renewable energy sources may also be cost effective.

Less than 30 percent of Haiti's population has access to electricity © Worldwatch

What options are available for Haiti’s energy future? The office of the country’s new State Secretary for Energy is weighing the available options for energy supply and beginning consultations to plan the next steps for Haiti’s power sector. In doing so, decision makers should consider not only the short-term technical and economic costs, but also the long-term environmental and social costs and benefits for Haiti’s population.

A March 2011 report, commissioned to Nexant by the World Bank and the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility, a multi-donor technical assistance facility, explores future electricity supply options for the Caribbean region. For Haiti, the Nexant analysis presents three scenarios and concludes that liquified natural gas (LNG) is the cheapest fuel option at nearly all capacity factors. (See table.) The report also notes that renewable energy technologies such as wind power and hydropower are economically viable in the country through 2028.

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Caribbean, electricity grid, Haiti, Low-Carbon Development, natural gas, renewable energy

On December 29th, the Jamaican government called for a general election which resulted in a changing of the guard from the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) to the People’s National Party (PNP). The PNP, led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, assumes control of the government after having lost it to the JLP in the summer of 2007. With this change, many questions arise regarding current initiatives, especially those concerning energy. Despite many signals that the country is moving toward a more sustainable energy future, including a renegotiated contract to help make Wigton Wind Farm profitable, official legislation for net billing, and the rehabilitation of hydroelectric facilities, energy prices continue to burden most consumers and the country’s energy future still remains unclear.

election map, courtesy of Jamaica Observer

A map of Jamaica showing the election results from December 2011. Source: The Jamaica Observer

While both the PNP and JLP support renewable energy initiatives in their rhetoric, actual energy performance has been mixed. Until 2007, the PNP led the country for 18 years, and in that time the country’s first utility-scale wind farm was installed at Rose Hill. Its initial phase brought 18 megawatts (MW) of installed wind capacity to the island to complement the 21 MW of already-installed hydro power. The PNP also established the Office of Utility Regulation (OUR), which oversees, among other things, the island’s electricity sector.

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Caribbean, electricity, emissions reductions, energy efficiency, Jamaica