By Abraham Espinal Serrata, Microgrid Researcher, PUCMM

 As humans have changed the way they live on this planet and have learned to use its resources for their comfort, the environmental burden of human activity has greatly increased. In an already evolving energy demanding and climate crisis era, the pandemic and the consequences it has brought (supply chain collapse, scarcity and an increase in energy and goods demand), have sped up changes in human behavior and pushed a no-precedent energy transition that has just started. 

Big challenges have arisen to maintain stability and to keep up with the changes in the energy generation mix that has become primarily renewable, as well as other factors affecting the capacity of the old electrical grid to supply the needs of the modern agents that interact on it.

In the 20th century, the industrial and mobility revolution began to form the current ecosystem of development and urbanization that devours enormous amounts of energy that has been produced and continues to be based on contaminant coal and hydrocarbon sources. Therefore, this energy production has led to residual harmful materials and gases, especially greenhouse gases that are affecting the climate globally, so much so that since NASA has measured information on global temperature and its changes (1880 to date), 19 of the hottest years have occurred from 2000 to now, with 2016 and 2020 tied for the title of the hottest year on record. 

Fig 1 – Global land-ocean temperature index Change. 
N. G. C. (2020). Global Surface Temperature | NASA Global Climate Change. Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. 

A Degree of Concern: Energy Consumption and Global Warming

The main cause of this increase in temperature has been the emissions caused by the processes required by this new and developed society, which needs energy to survive (Energy has 75% of gas emissions attributed to it). Energy is the backbone of modern society, it is key to technological advancement and the underlying infrastructure of a wide range of products and services that are the basis of our day-to-day life and the motor of our economic productivity, however, for over a century it has been obtained from the burning of fossil fuels and their derivatives, creating a set of problems that grew silently, and that today is affecting and threatening our stability, quality, and continuity. of life on this earth, to the point that around 5 million deaths a year are attributed to this cause. The exponential growth of consumption, and its lack of diversification to renewable sources in the speed of response required to reach the levels of demand, mean that the global energy matrix still lacks the participation required to meet the objectives that have been raised worldwide entities as the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat, through its Conference of Parties, to stop climate change below 2 degrees Celsius. The global energy mix has changed very little in percentage terms compared to the increase in capacity despite the coordinated efforts that have been made in recent years, as can be seen in Fig. 2.

Fig 2 – Historical global energy consumption by source 
Energy Transitions: Global and National Perspectives (Second expanded and updated edition) – Vaclav Smil. (2016, December 14).

Waves of disruption in the clean energy transition

Three main aspects that impulse the Clean Energy Transition, their corelation and how COVID19 has affect each of them are described next.

1 | Decentralization and Decarbonization:

Today, even though the energy matrix has not changed drastically, in recent years the market share of renewable energies in new energy installations has been impressive, with a record year in 2020, despite the aftermath of the pandemic some 260GW were installed, which is 4 times more than what was installed from other sources and 50% more than what was installed in 2019.

Fig 3 – New electricity capacity 2001-2020. (gw)  
IRENA. (n.d.). World Energy Transitions Outlook: 1.5°C Pathway (2021st ed.). 

This drastic increase in recent years, even though it is still not enough to offset the emissions already made, as stipulated at COP26 this year in Glasgow, UK, is because renewable energies are currently the cheapest to generate energy in many markets due to the price decrease which Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) can be seen below (fig 4)

Fig 4 – Global LCOE of newly commissioned utility-scale renewable power generation technologies, 2010 and 2020.
IRENA. (n.d.). World Energy Transitions Outlook: 1.5°C Pathway (2021st ed.).

2 | Energy Storage:

Another important challenge for the development of the new energy matrix and the sustainability of it, is the development of the industry of energy storage. Industry standard Lithium-ion batteries, which price have felt more than 97% over the last 3 decades and stands for more than 50% of the storage systems installed in 2019, are the main energy storage technology used from cellphones to utility scale storage systems and are a key to the integration of renewable energy generation plants giving them the stability they lack. The learning curve of lithium-ion batteries is around 20.1%, meaning every time the installed capacity doubles, the price of it gets reduced by that percentage. Not only price have felt but energy density has increased by 340% already too, as well as the technology of the cells and integration. 

Fig 5 – Price of lithium-ion batteries in the last three decades. The price of batteries has declined by 97% in the last three decades. (2020). Our World in Data.

The adoption of energy storage systems is key to have a bigger participation of renewables and to give assistance to the Electrical Grid (EG) and enhance its resiliency. Several factors are getting the interest of residential customers so that the residential Energy Storage Systems (ESS) exceeded utility scale storage in 2018 in the USA for the first time. This spike in Residential ESS is driven mainly by these factors:

  • Price: the price has fallen incredibly as stated before.
  • Climate change driven events and lack of resilience risk: recently the number of climate driven events and the lack of preparation for it has made residential customers concerned about how vulnerable the EG can be against such events.     
  • Tax Credit incentives: many countries have incentives for the installation of renewable energy systems and most of them include the battery in that equation or have a special structure of incentives for them.
  • Energy instability: in developing countries energy availability needs to be sometimes managed by customers, specially under reliability related events such as maintenance, failures or supply chain issues. This last one has been affecting first world countries too in recent days after COVID19 pandemic left the supply chain sector significantly depleted. Reliability indexes such as System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI) and System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI), can help better understand this situation, where the SAIDI can represent up to 100 hours of interruptions a month.
  • Utility rate structure: Time of Use (TOU) tariffs are increasingly being created. A TOU rate varies depending on the time of the day the consumption is made. This is a powerful tool for promoting the use of ESS in residences and commercial sites as it is financial driven.
  • Grid Auxiliary services payment: proposed auxiliary services payment for customers that can give energy to the grid under bottleneck or saturation situations in specific spots of the grid; it’s a win-win situation for homeowners and the utility as well for the EG overall.

To make the ESS  profitable for residential homeowners the challenges to be addressed are Implementation of TOU rates, grid services payments and backup value. These policy and regulation measures in conjunction with price and market elements will greatly drive the adoption of these systems and their integration into the EG.

3 | Electromobility: The Challenge and the Opportunity

A key factor in slowing down the energy generation source mix and energy transition has so far been vehicles, since their main source of energy is fossil fuels and in countries like the Dominican Republic, this represents around 40% of total energy consumption. This value makes them extremely relevant when modifying our energy mix, and this percentage is emulated globally.

FIG 6 – Energy Consumption per Sector in Dominican Republic. (kTep)
Comisión Nacional de Energía. (2021, July 9). Estadísticas Energéticas –.

A change in energy sources and in the way of managing them is urgent to sustain the lifestyle of today’s civilization. At this tipping point, renewable energies, electric mobility and dynamic / smart grids will provide the necessary path for this new energy scheme.

FIG.7 – The Bloomberg NEF’s Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021
EVO Report 2021 | BloombergNEF | Bloomberg Finance LP. (2021, July 7). BloombergNEF.

Bloomberg NEF’s outlook presents two scenarios for electric vehicle integration and sector development through 2050. One driven by the market and technology forces without the intervention of policy measures (Source: Economic Transition Scenario) and the other one considering policy support.

The fulfillment of these scenarios outlined in the previous figure, even the least hopeful, entails an incredibly high energy requirement from the EG and a required exponential growth of it. Based on energy consumption by sector in the Dominican Republic, this would imply the need for an increase of around 100% in the capacity of the network, without considering the already established annual growth of the other types of loads. This is truly a challenge to be able to increase the capacity of the generation matrix, as well as of the entire distribution network to support the inclusion of these high demand loads and possible contribution to the network for services such as those mentioned in chapter 2.Energy Storage. The use of electric vehicles as a source of energy to support (VESS) both the residences and the EG itself, will be the last straw in supporting the ESS to the grid.

Post Pandemic Energy

The fact that a pandemic hit the world by late 2019, even though we feel the consequences in early 2020, has changed the speed at which the EG was evolving. The scarcity economy and consumer needs hike that the post-pandemic era has created is affecting the supply chain of all markets and energy is not exempt from it, with the energy price crisis in Europe as well as gas scarcity and price increase even in the United States. 

China is also having a major energy crisis caused by the pandemic, which has led to factory closure in the mass goods sector such as basic supplies and technology equipment. Natural Gas and all oil-based fuels prices are increasing, meanwhile demand for lithium for ESS and EVs also increases enormously. 

This energy crisis seen by the entire world right now is the preamble of a big change in political power, money and supply chain attached to the energy sector. New schemes and regulations need to be created to keep with this new energy era.

Changes are happening at an incredible pace in mobility, as well as in electricity generation. Even though these are steps to a more sustainable and competitive world (mainly because renewable energy is highly available in many third world countries like the Dominican Republic), this new technology as it is typical by its nature, will bring new questions, new milestones that we will need to overcome to let it integrate with what is available and serve our purposes. This has been demonstrated through specific cases (Texas, Mexico), where the lack of readiness and adaptation of the Electrical Grid (EG) to a more changing environment and to this new generation technology infrastructure has caused major inconveniences on the EG. 

New agents need to take place so that the EG can be improved and become more resilient. Energy-Storage, new control strategies, weather precise forecasting, EG reconfiguration and microgrid formation are just a sample of the new agents that are required in a new modern EG.

It is important to note how the COVID19 crisis aggravated or increased the relevance of the energy sustainability crisis and is forcing the necessary changes in the way in which energy is generated and managed. With all the new actors that intervene in the EG in a more dynamic way (electric vehicles, distributed generation, battery storage, IOT, microgrids), modern and post-covid EG needs to become a complex and yet resilience and reliable system capable of supplying more energy to the end users (aggregating previously supply by other source energy needs of the clients, as transportation), within a more variable energy source mix (renewables), while increasing its withstand capacity and integration (Microgrids / IOT).

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CI – Abraham Espinal Serrata

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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