By Ramón Emilio De Jesús-Grullón (PI). MG Research PI, PUCMM

What do we talk about when we talk about Energy and Community Resiliency?

In recent years, preparing for the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events has become synonymous with the term resilience. Resilience, in this context, is defined as the ability of people, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems to survive, adapt, and grow, no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute crises they experience [1]. “Chronic stress” in communities could include factors such as high unemployment, poor or overburdened infrastructure, concentrated poverty, or fiscal mismanagement, while “acute crises” include floods, extreme weather events, earthquakes, disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks , who put at risk the infrastructure of a place, region or nation.

When talking about resilience in infrastructure, it’s important to recognize that we’re talking about systems, and one way to think of a system is to see it as groups of relationships. A city is a system of relationships between people, businesses, institutions, and infrastructure. So, when a city that has been devastated by a hurricane recovers, we don’t really care if the power grids, buildings, and bridges are rebuilt in exactly the same way. What matters is whether the key relationships within the city system remain intact [2]. Can the essential people and institutions that made up that system be recovered? Can residents remain in their neighborhoods or are they forced to leave because basic services (energy, water, communication) have been affected? Can shops and factories reopen, or are contracts and supply lines broken beyond repair?

Traditionally, the performance of critical infrastructure (electrical network, telecommunications, water supply systems, etc.) has been analyzed using classical risk assessment methods for its safe and reliable design and operation [3]. This approach made it possible to adequately respond to known and credible hazards and threats. However, more recently it has become apparent that additional efforts and considerations are needed beyond the well-established state of the art to ensure efficient recovery from high-impact, low-probability (HILP) disruptive events [4]. Therefore, more and more attention around the world has recently been paid to the resilience of critical infrastructure systems, which is considered a key property to adequately cope with interruptions, but also its interrelationship with the quality of life and the social welfare associated with this basic service.

Framing Resiliency: Climate Vulnerability Context of the Dominican Republic

The analysis of the “Critical Points of Vulnerability to climate change in the Dominican Republic” shows that 13 provinces (around 40%) present levels of vulnerability from high to very high (see Fig. 1). [4] The country’s geographic location, coupled with historical social, demographic, and economic factors, and the fact that the republic shares the island with the poorest country in the hemisphere, exacerbate risk conditions. Population growth and changes in demographic and economic patterns have favored uncontrolled urbanization. This, together with the widespread poverty of some of these communities, has forced large groups of the population to live in disaster-prone areas, which translates into the obligation to live in areas exposed to high pollution or high risk of receiving negative effects from meteo-climatic or geomorphological events such as floods, landslides, rise in sea level, among others. Added to this equation is the impossibility of accessing quality public services, such as access to a resilient and stable energy service and drinking water, with important consequences for health.

Fig 1 – Map of Critical Points of Vulnerability in the Dominican Republic

Planning for Resiliency: National Adaptation Plan to Climate Change of the Dominican Republic (PNACC-RD)

The Dominican Republic is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 (Long-Term Climate Risk Index-CRI), it is ranked eleventh, and Haiti, which shares the same island, is among the three most vulnerable countries in the world, placing the island as one of the most affected globally [5].

Not surprisingly, climate change will have a significant impact on the electricity sector. Rising temperatures, the growing number and severity of extreme events, changing precipitation patterns, and rising sea levels all affect energy production, supply, and demand [6]. Although the focus of the action plans of the electricity sector of the Republic has focused on financial sustainability in recent years, the priority should be adaptation and increased resilience to the impacts of climate change. The main vehicle for this process is the National Adaptation Plan (PNACC-RD) [7]. According to the plan, the country must maximize the synergies between mitigation and adaptation and focus efforts on those measures that will generate benefits for both: reducing emissions and increasing resilience. The objectives of this research are aligned with the transversal strategic lines, the principles, and objectives of the PNACC.

Fig 2 – National Adaptation Plan (PNACC-RD)

The Main Objectives of the PNACC-RD 2015-2030 are:

  • Reduce vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, by building the capacity for adaptation and resilience.
  • Facilitate the integration of climate change adaptation, in a coherent manner, into new and existing policies, programs and activities, including development planning processes and strategies, within all relevant sectors and at different levels, as appropriate.

The Transversal Strategic Lines of the PNACC-RD 2015-2030 to which this research is aligned are:

  • Line T 2: Climate risk reduction: Development and updating of risk and vulnerability maps. The implementation of initiatives that reduce vulnerability to variability and climate change through sectoral measures
  • Line T 4: Research on vulnerability, adaptation and impacts and climate scenarios: Generating information and metrics to promote knowledge of the conditioning factors, manifestations, impacts and responses of climate change.
  • Line T 5: Strengthening of monitoring and evaluation systems, including local capacity. Improve the system of indicators, new and existing, including the main indicators of vulnerability as a tool to inform decision-making

Case Study – How does Resilience planning looks like in Santiago de los Caballeros?

Santiago de los Caballeros, also known as the the heart city, one of the oldest cities in America, has experienced social and natural situations that have led it to be rebuilt over and over again (Earthquake of 1562, Fire of 1863, San Zenón hurricane in 1930, among others), to now be one of the most prosperous metropolises in the nation, playing a central role in the economy, politics and culture of the Dominican Republic and the rest of the Caribbean.

Fig 3– Growth of Urban Region from 1960 to 2009 Source: 100 Resilient Cities

However, as the city’s urban planning has not kept pace with its rapid urbanization, informal settlements and lack of public services have become conspicuous parts of the landscape, often in the most vulnerable areas from the point of view of urbanization.

Communities in these areas suffer from inadequate public services and infrastructure that do not yet extend beyond the formal city. These tensions leave these communities and the rest of the city even more exposed to the acute impacts that inevitably occur, as happened in 2007 with hurricanes Olga and Noel, which left 87 dead, and in 2017, when hurricanes Irma and María hit, leaving to more than 80,000 displaced people, 350,000 without power, almost 1.8 million without drinking water and power and causing damages of more than RD$ 3,000 M.

With this latent problem, the city’s leadership initiated the Resilience Strategy in 2018, a vision with 45 concrete actions that address the shocks and stresses faced by the city, including investments in infrastructure to improve response and mitigate disasters, as well as the creation of mechanisms to regulate the use of land so that the city expands and develops in a sustainable and flexible way. The agreement signed with the Rockefeller Foundation integrated Santiago de los Caballeros into the 100 Resilient Cities Program, reinforcing territorial planning by incorporating the lens of resilience transversally in the decisions and actions of its leaders [8].

Fig 4 – Flood Hazard Zones Source: 100 Resilient Cities

This initiative supported the adoption and incorporation of a vision of resilience that includes not only the shocks, such as earthquakes, floods, disease outbreaks, etc., but also the stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a daily or cyclical basis. Examples of these stresses include high unemployment rates, an overburdened or failing public transportation system, endemic violence, or chronic food and water shortages.

The evidence and findings of this project (see figures 3 and 4), complementing the findings of the Santiago 2030 Strategic Plan [9] (see figures 3 and 4), demonstrate the power of data and the need to have tools that are able to be updated over time, and not be simple temporary captures, so that they serve for planning processes, support decision-making for the city council or as data analysis and interpretation tools for mitigation plans and the execution of infrastructure projects. However, one of the great knowledge gaps of both initiatives is identifiable in the little existing information on the risks and vulnerabilities of the energy sector in the city. It’s a fact that a reliable electrical grid is the backbone of modern society. Electricity is so intertwined and embedded in every human activity and economic process that it has become essential, even more so in the face of the inherent risk of geographic isolation faced by any island nation. Therefore, by understanding the intricate relationship between energy and the infrastructure that it runs and also depends on, you can get a great indicator of what needs to be done to protect these assets. 

Use of Geographic Information System (GIS) for Resilience Studies in Santiago

The Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CEUR) of the Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), a unit for research and generation of processes aimed at the sustainable development of communities, especially in activities that have to do with the relationship between society and the environment, in its natural aspects, human and built, has extensive experience in the use of proprietary and open-source geospatial tools and technologies for data generation, management, sharing, and visualization. For example, the CEUR recently participated in the Secondaries Cities Project (2C) Santiago, a field initiative of the United States Department, Office of Geographer, which creates partnerships to improve geospatial capacity, generate data and share maps to support the planning of sustainable and resilient cities. [10]

Fig 5 – Main natural threats in the Municipality of Santiago. Source: Santiago Strategic Plan (2030)

The initiative was carried out in collaboration with the Department of State’s Office of Ocean, Environmental and International Scientific Affairs and was managed by the American Association of Geographers (AAG) and Colorado State University (CSU) who provided technical support and concept of the project, whose objective focused on the creation of data in support of land use planning and disaster risk reduction to promote sustainable and safe communities, and whose data will contribute to an updated municipal land use map that replaces a version from the early 2000s. These data and maps will help guide development decisions, especially as it relates to 15 of the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the floodplain.

Fig 6 – Vulnerability to cyclone threats. Source: Santiago Strategic Plan (2030)

The Bottleneck: The Need for Open Data

One of the greatest challenges (that in hindsight can be an opportunity) that the country and the city faces is the limited availability of updated statistical data, which allows decision makers and the communities themselves to have updated and accurate information to act in any situation of risk or vulnerability. This generates that many of the research projects that are developed from the CEUR require the implementation of pilots for the collection of spatially referenced information, since these are the only basis to guide the design of policies and public interventions in a certain space.

Another relevant factor is the little disaggregation of the statistical information available in the country, generally all the sociodemographic information. This generates bottlenecks in investigations that require data that can be divided or disaggregated to the smallest political-administrative unit at the urban level. To this is added, the little culture of open data, which does not allow progress in improving the available information useful for territorial planning at the different scales of intervention. Opening the data for the fulfillment of the sustainable development goals is an inherent step to strengthen the scientific community, improve cooperation and the exchange of knowledge and experiences. It is necessary to develop capacities for the capture, transformation, release, and use of data.

The Possible Route: Where do we go from here?

In 2011, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) launched the Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI) to apply the concepts of the global open data movement to the challenges of reducing vulnerability to natural hazards and the impacts of climate change. OpenDRI supports the World Bank’s Regional Disaster Risk Management Teams to build capacity and long-term ownership of open data projects with client countries that are designed to meet the specific needs and objectives of stakeholders. OpenDRI engages with client governments in three main areas: [11]

  • Sharing Data: To increase public access to risk information, OpenDRI engages in dialogue with governments on the value of open data through working groups and pilot projects that evolve into long-term locally owned open data projects. OpenDRI provides technical solutions for project implementation through GeoNode, a free and open-source data sharing platform. The Open Data for Resilience Index is an online tool where anyone can track and assess open data related to natural hazards.
  • Collecting Data: To engage communities in the creation of accurate and timely data about the rapidly evolving urban and rural environments where they live, OpenDRI works with governments and local communities to utilize simple, collaborative, crowdsourced mapping tools such as OpenStreetMap (OSM). OpenDRI has also created and is supervising the Open Cities Project that facilitates community-mapping activities.
  • Using Data: To communicate risk more effectively to decision-makers in planning, preparedness and response activities, OpenDRI works with governments and partners to develop InaSAFE software. By combining data from scientists, local governments and communities, InaSAFE provides insights into the likely effects of disaster events.

As the ideas of open mapping and open data continue to gain traction in the disaster risk management and sustainable development space, there is a massive opportunity to leverage on existing knowledge to plan and learn from the experience of people across the globe. 


[1]       DRVPC, “An Assessment of Planning Tools for Climate Change Resiliency,” DELAWARE, 2020.

[2]        Post Carbon Institute , “Think Resilience,” March 2022. [Online]. Available:

[3]        M. Panteli and P. Mancarella, “Modeling and Evaluating the Resilience of Critical Electrical Power Infrastructure to Extreme Weather Events,” IEEE Systems Journal, 2015.

[4]      Dirección General de Ordenamiento y Desarrollo Territorial (DGODT), BID, “Indicadores de la Gestión de Riesgos de Desastres en República Dominicana 2012: Desafíos pendientes y acciones para el avance,” Santo Domingo, 2013.

[5]      GERMANWATCH, “GLOBAL CLIMATE RISK INDEX 2021,” GermanWatch Ev, Berlin, 2021.

[6]      T. Bruckner, “Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of Climate Change.,” Cambridge University, New York, 2014.

[7]      Consejo Nacional para el Cambio Climático y Mecanismo de Desarrollo Limpio (CNCCMDL) “Plan Nacional de Adaptación para el cambio climático en la República Dominicana 2015-2030” Santo Domingo, República Dominicana, 2016.

[8]      Ayuntamiento de Santiago de los Caballeros, “Estrategia de Resiliencia Santiago de los Caballeros,” Santiago de los Caballeros, 2018.

[9]      Ayuntamiento de Santiago de los Caballeros, “Plan Estratégico de Santiago 2030,” Santaigo, 2019.

[10]     U.S Dept Of State, “Santiago de Los Caballeros Urbinsight Project Map Book Phase I-2017,” 2017.

[11]   “OpenDRI Open Data for Resilience Initiative.” (accessed Jun. 16, 2022)

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Ramón Emilio De Jesús-Grullón – PI

This article is derived from the Subject Data funded in whole or part by NAS and USAID under the USAID Prime Award Number AID-OAA-A-11-00012. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or NAS.

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