LEADING BY EXAMPLE

Dominican Republic 2019 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

KAYA has been leading the efforts to help the Dominican Republic achieve its high renewable energy targets by helping the government design legislation and providing local communities with easier access to renewable energies.

Karina Chez
BIOGRAPHY
Karina Chez is the President of ASOFER, CEO & Managing Partner of KAYA Energy Group, and the Chairman of Grupo Chez. After having worked in Egypt, Jordan, New York, Canada, London, Colombia, Singapore, UAE, and Kenya, she dedicated her efforts to the development of renewable energies in the Caribbean and beyond. She is a founding member of TheSheLab in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the director of Fundación Vida KAYA. She holds an MBA from Pace University and a master’s degree in political and economic development from Columbia University.

How have your previous experiences abroad shaped your current involvement in the renewable energy sector?

From an early age, I have always been drawn to the idea that through innovation, we can impact people's lives, particularly those that are most vulnerable. After completing my MBA in the US, I spent a good portion of my professional life abroad, working with pioneering technology start-ups in countries such as the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Colombia, Canada, the UK, and Singapore. Although incredibly enriching, I wanted to begin focusing my work on addressing some the truly complex issues our global community faces, such as inequality and climate change. I decided to enroll at Columbia University to pursue another graduate degree in the area of economic development. While there, I participated in a research project in Machakos, Kenya. In this very rural setting, I had the opportunity to observe the massive economic impact of solar panels in operation, with all the positive social repercussions on the community's livelihoods. Seeing this, I realized that solar energy could also represent the solution for the huge electricity problems that my home country faced. I knew that there was an opportunity to intervene and that it was up to me to take action. Therefore, after 10 years away from the Dominican Republic, my husband and I decided to return home and dedicate our efforts to developing, financing, constructing, and operating solar energy systems. We spent a full summer talking to government officials, leaders of the private and public sectors, and various academics to understand how the new law that incentivized renewable energy was being implemented. As soon as our company became operational, we were confronted with the possibility that the incentives in the renewable energy law were going to be eliminated. This was 2012, and a turning point for the whole sector. We banded together with other companies to fight the proposed changes, which culminated in a meeting with the Senate, at which point we obtained an agreement to save the majority of the incentives. This pumped vitality into the green energy sector, bringing together all players who shared the same vision and giving us a united voice that is supported by solid studies on the financial and environmental impact of renewables. To date, the Asociación para el Fomento de las Energías Renovables (ASOFER) counts almost 100 member companies and is active throughout the Caribbean region. Importantly, ASOFER exerts pressure on the Dominican government to achieve the renewable energy targets outlined by the president of the country: reduce CO2 emissions by 25% by 2025 and increase the percentage of renewable sources of energy up to 32% by 2030.

How does KAYA Energy stand out from other providers of solar energy?

Solar energy has now become a commodity, and we have a great number of local companies active in the sector. One of our key differentiators is our multi-disciplinary and multicultural team, which is dedicated to providing our clients with high-performing solar energy systems. Another point that sets us apart is our regional reach, as we are providing project management and project design services throughout region, which enables us to engage the expertise and experience of these different locations. Moreover, something that is very important to us is our CSR involvement. Inspired by the success stories I was able to witness first-hand in Kenya, we have worked alongside communities in the DR to bring them solar energy.

What are your goals for the upcoming years?

We will continue to push to expand the share of electricity produced from renewables as much as possible. There are many improvements needed by the green energy sector. Large-scale projects need to be approved faster. Also, we should further educate people on the importance of installing solar panels or other types of renewables in households. Renewable energies are not only the responsibility of big companies or public institutions; in fact, every household can play an essential role in enabling our country to comply with its energy and emissions commitments.