A Journey of A Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Roadmap

This blog post was originally posted at Worldwatch Institute

Worldwatch’s Energy and Climate team is busy implementing a one-year initiative, funded by the Energy and Environment Partnership with Central America (EEP), to develop a Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap for wind and solar power in the Dominican Republic. We will soon begin a similar project in Haiti and Jamaica and expand our work in the Dominican Republic to include other resources, including biomass, with the sponsorship of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

Sunrise in Punta Cana
Sunrise in Punta Cana.

Through these initiatives, we are taking a holistic approach to documenting the potential for low-carbon development, which we believe will provide insights directly useful to policymakers and business leaders. The first half of the project has yielded good results, and we hope it will be the first of many such projects for our Caribbean Program.

The small-island states of the Caribbean are perfect candidates for being “first movers” In low-carbon development. Very few of them have fossil fuel resources of their own, and the vast majority relies heavily on imported energy, specifically oil and gas. The Dominican Republic consumes, on average, 155,000 barrels of oil per day, and in 2007, 70 percent of the country’s electricity was generated from oil and gas. This leaves the Dominican Republic, like all other small-island states, vulnerable to price shocks and lacking energy security.

Moreover, generating electricity from oil is very expensive, and these countries pay higher prices for their oil imports than large consumers such as the United States. Small-island countries are also especially vulnerable to climatic changes and therefore have a major vested interest in promoting the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Worldwatch has partnered with 3TIER, a renewable energy “information-to-decision” company that provides high-resolution mapping of solar, wind, and small-hydro resources. An initial nationwide survey of a target country allows us to identify particular areas of good potential. Additional mapping of these zones provides higher-resolution data that project developers can use to help determine the viability of installations in a given area. Further technical analysis will include how these zones relate to existing transmission lines and consumption centers.

We are still in the early stages of this first project. Some of 3TIER’s mapping has been completed, including analysis of the solar resource around the Dominican Republic’s two largest cities, Santo Domingo and Santiago. Using 13 years of satellite imagery, 3TIER has measured three hourly variables: global horizontal irradiance (the total solar radiation that hits a horizontal surface), direct normal irradiance (the direct-beam solar radiation on a surface that moves to track the movement of the sun throughout the day), and diffuse horizontal irradiance (the indirect or reflected solar radiation that hits a horizontal surface).

At Worldwatch, we are combining this resource mapping with our own expertise on global best practices, as well as our local partners’ knowledge, to analyze the renewable energy policy environment in the target country as well as the socio-economic implications of the roadmap’s recommendations. The idea is to create an environment that stimulates the development of these resources and steers a country away from reliance on fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources.

For all the work that Worldwatch and 3TIER brings to the table, however, successful implementation depends on the ongoing involvement of local stakeholders. We therefore will work with our partners to conduct multiple workshops in each country. Early on, these workshops will focus on gathering input from government and civil society representatives. Later, they will ensure that we are incorporating stakeholder priorities. In the final stages, the workshops will be used to communicate our findings and recommendations.

The more input we gather from key stakeholders, the more we can tailor the roadmap to their concerns and goals. And the better they understand the roadmap’s recommendations, the more effective they will be at implementing the policy changes and relaying mitigated uncertainty to potential investors. A good map will always get someone where they want to go. Our Low-Carbon Energy Roadmaps provide a path to a low-carbon future that is paved with measureable outcomes at every level.