New policies in Central America are connecting small-scale renewable energy users to the grid—but not in the direction you might expect.

Net metering policies allow owners of small-scale distributed renewable energy systems to feed power produced by their installations back into the grid. Under net metering, utility customers who own such systems can install a bi-directional meter that records both incoming and outgoing power and calculates the net difference. If customers produce more electricity than they use, they receive compensation from the utility company, often in the form of avoided costs or by receiving a pre-selected payment per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Solar project in Esterillos. Source: Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad

Net metering is a low-cost, low-risk policy and has been successfully implemented in many countries around the world. The right of utility customers to produce renewable energy and connect their systems to a distribution network – in conjunction with other polices that promote renewables such as tax concessions and financial assistance —is helping individuals and communities to introduce renewables into the grid on a small scale. In Central America, Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala have already introduced net metering policies to promote renewable energy deployment.  

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Central America, Climate Change, Costa Rica, net metering, renewable energy, renewable energy policy, small scale distributed renewable energy, solar power

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.

A towering improvement for the Dominican Republic's electricity infrastructure.

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.

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Caribbean, Dominican Republic, energy efficiency, net metering, renewable energy, wind power