Spotlight on the future of hydropower in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic’s power sector has undergone an important shift in recent years as the country migrates to new technologies in a bid to reduce dependence on liquid fossil fuels. The push has been led by development of the 750-MW Punta Catalina coal-fired plant, the incorporation of natural gas and the promotion of non-conventional renewable energies.

According to BNamericas, what is often overlooked amid this overhaul is that the Caribbean nation also boasts hydropower. Installed hydro capacity stands at just over 600 MW, or roughly 15% of total installed capacity, according to power regulator SIE.

Nearly all the capacity belongs to state hydroelectric generation company Empresa de Generacion Hidroelectrica Dominicana (EGEHID), which operates 27 plants ranging from less than 1 MW to the 98-MW Jigüey complex, for a combined 614 MW. EGEHID’s latest addition is a 10.76-MW expansion of the 8-MW Hatillo plant that is in the ramp-up phase.

Under the country’s renewables energy promotion law, the state may grant hydroelectric concessions to the private sector if these do not exceed 5 MW. Information from national energy commission CNE shows that definitive hydro concessions have been granted to EVYP Caribe and Shanti Investment.

Hydropower accounted for 6.74%, 6.16% and 9.51% of electricity output in January, February and March 2020, respectively, according to grid coordinator OC, whose long-term operation report forecasts that hydropower will contribute 5% to 8% this decade. OC projects that 3,383 MW of new capacity will come online through 2029, of which 132 MW would come from two hydroelectric plants: 45-MW Artibonito and 87-MW Las Placetas, both in 2026.

In its strategic plan, EGEHID says that much of the country’s hydro potential already has been utilized – up to 90% – and that efforts should target efficiency improvements of existing capacity and prioritize water supply for drinking and agriculture. Recently, the company began construction of the US$39 million Boca Los Ríos multipurpose dam on the Guayubin River in Santiago de Cuba province to cover potable water and irrigation needs.

EGEHID does point to opportunities for installing mini-hydro generation, particularly in the north.

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