WINDS OF SUCCESS

Dominican Republic 2019 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Akuo Energy is bringing its expertise in all fields of renewable energy to the Caribbean and employing an island-specific strategy to unlock maximum potential.

Salvatore Longo
BIOGRAPHY
Salvatore Longo studied civil engineering at the University of Napoli and later pursued a master’s degree in economic management and infrastructures and transports planning at ULB, Belgium. He is also specialized in finance management for infrastructure projects in developing countries. After holding several professional positions including working at the European Commission in Brussels, Longo went on to become Country Manager in Dominican Republic for the Akuo Energy group.

Can you outline Akuo Energy's presence in the region?

Akuo Energy is an independent power producer with a short 10-year history, but a wide range of operations in all fields of renewable energy, namely wind, solar, biomass, and micro hydropower. The main objective of the company is sustainable development through technical solutions; we are specialized in structuring, financing, building, and operating long-term high-quality energy projects that will benefit the territory where they are being implemented. We are present in 15 countries; our activities began in France, which remains the market in which we have the largest number of projects, although not the largest ones. We entered the Caribbean with an island-specific strategy, based on French overseas territories and a concept called “agri-energy," which combines renewable energy production, or storage, and agriculture to address the issue of land scarcity. With our presence in the French Caribbean, we have developed an interest in the Dominican Republic since 2013, when many renewable energy projects existed in the country without being either complete or viable. We raised the bar in terms of quality and as a result those projects gained traction with international investors, such as the World Bank and the IFC. After those initial projects, we continued investing and building our long-term strategy in the country.

Are you looking to open new projects in the region?

Yes, absolutely. We are currently investigating the state of renewable energy incentives available in various territories. Besides having typical renewable energy projects, we have certain specific solutions that we would like to apply to other islands. These include solar gems, which are solar panels in a container that can be replaced easily during a hurricane or tropical storm—entirely appropriate given the weather factor in the Caribbean region. We also have solar tiles, which look exactly the same as house roof tiles, but can be used to generate energy and replaced with everyday tiles should the need arise. We are also developing a hydrogen production solution that can be paired with transportation, a solution that could be interesting for the Caribbean.

What noteworthy projects do you have in the Dominican Republic?

The company's main project in the country is a windfarm with an installed capacity of 50MW in Monte Cristi, in the north of the country. When we started the evaluation in 2013, we realized that although there were several concession permits, there was only one wind farm, in the south of the country. The Pecasa wind farm emerged as the most viable project, taking into account resources, population, and environmental constraints. It will consist of 25 turbines designed by Siemens-Gamesa. Construction is due for completion by July 2019, and the project will enter service immediately thereafter. Our immediate plans then are to expand the wind farm and undertake the second phase of the project. We are also looking at solar projects, which we consider to be an important complement to wind farms, operating as they do almost at opposite times. We are looking for projects that already exist, and seek to partner with them to bring them to life.

What is your view on the Dominican Republic's renewable energy sector?

There is a lot that has been done, but there are improvements needed in terms of how legislation is structured. There is a need for procedural stability to enable a smooth continuity. Local participation on this front is strong and active, while foreign firms like us come to offer experience and financing inputs. For the future, most financial institutions in the Dominican Republic are keen to invest and support renewable energy. The influx of a number of international companies into the Dominican Republic's renewable energy market has helped improve local knowledge of technology and raise awareness. This is a collective development of all players within the industry, and those local firms are strong enough to sustain growth internally.