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FEATURE STORY

24/7 electricity boosts jobs and reduces crime

August 31, 2015


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With electricity 24/7 the community's businesses no longer suffer from power outages

World Bank

A Dominican community goes from darkness to having a reliable, 24/7 electricity supply. This is the story of how they managed it

For many Dominicans it’s an everyday situation; you come home at night, turn on the light and… nothing! Across a good stretch of the country, unexpected blackouts —sometimes lasting a long period of time— are an everyday situation.

“I had to work at night to be able to do my job and take care of my family. Sometimes I had to go to other places just to find a bit of light,” said Miurbi Mendoza, a seamstress and resident of Los Mina in the capital Santo Domingo. “I work for hotels and I had to travel all the way over there for up to a month, for an entire fortnight I had to be away from home,” she adds.

Electricity is essential to Mendoza, an entrepreneur with a family to take care of and every blackout threatens her income and her time to take care of her kids.

For 50 years this neighborhood, along with many other communities, has suffered from a highly unreliable electricity supply. They faced a daily struggle to get ahead when faced with power cuts that reduced their opportunities to work and even have drinking water at home.

“In the past, we needed several full water tanks in the house because electricity was just not there, and when it came you were sometimes unable to drink from the tank,” recalls Julia Altagracia de Reyes, a secretary at the Water Network Rehabilitation Works Follow-Up Council in Los Mina.

Persistent Blackouts

It’s a trend that sets the Dominican Republic apart from the rest of Latin America, a region with one of the lowest rates of power outages on the planet, according to data from the Global Allianz insurance agency. In fact, with an average of 18 blackouts per month, the Dominican Republic was second to only the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen in terms of blackouts in 2010.

Years of neglect have left the Dominican electricity riddled with inefficiencies. Over two-fifths of all the electricity purchased from generating companies is lost before it reaches the consumer, either due to bad network conditions or the high number of illegal connections between the energy sources and the end users.

The result: ongoing, system-wide blackouts which significantly impact the country’s competitiveness.

In response, the government has invested US$42 million (contributed by the World Bank since 2011) to a project aimed at providing a 24/7 electricity supply to almost 100,000 Dominicans, after rehabilitating 220 miles of power lines. What’s more, every user now has an electricity meter to monitor their personal use and expenses, as well as to help identify leaks within the network.

“The change has been 100 percent positive,” said Reyes. “After 50 years of continual blackouts, shortages and poor management of the electricity supply, we can now rely on it 24/7, which is reflected in the wellbeing of the whole community.”


" I had to work at night to be able to do my job and take care of my family. Sometimes I had to go to other places just to find a bit of light "

Miurbi Mendoza

Seamstress from Los Mina, Santo Domingo

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Infographic detailing the electricity pact. Click to enlarge


Trustworthy Service

“I’m happy with the service I am getting, what I am doing with it and what I am paying for,” Miurbi Mendoza says.

Such a statement would have been impossible before any work had been carried out. After such long time living with a substandard service, there was no longer any trust in the system. This, naturally, was reflected in a hostile attitude towards distributors, and favored illegal connections.

Therefore, before carrying out any actual work in the neighborhood, EDEEste - the company responsible for the network in the area - worked with community groups to hear complaints, get to know their needs and forge a new relationship between neighbors and the State.

“We have been doing this job for three years, working hand in hand with EDEEste for this to be a success,” Reyes said. “Social managers have done a wonderful job; they have helped to educate the community on the importance of proper electricity usage and paying for it. If you don’t pay, the service can’t improve,” he added.

Increased Safety

Lack of public safety is one of the primary concerns among Latin Americans, and the Caribbean is not immune to this scourge. In many cities within the region, increased street lighting has been an effective way to reduce crime.

It is a preventive method that the residents of Los Mina now enjoy.

“Having the 24/7 electricity service is the difference between night and day. Public safety has increased, students used to leave in semi-darkness, complete darkness and they fell victim to many criminals. With permanent lighting in the area, crime levels have dropped across the board,” said Juan Sauvignon, principal of the Jose Maria Travieso Soto night high school.

Nowadays the Dominican electricity system is not very profitable and runs with a deficit that has increased in the last four years. In fact, according to Sergio Gonzalez, a senior energy specialist at the World Bank, transfers from the central government to cover the deficit in the electricity sector averaged 1.5% of GDP between 2011-13.

The electricity pact seeks to turn this situation around by providing all Dominicans with a reliable supply, 24 hours a day, within the next 15 years. Meanwhile, the first steps are already being taken to expand repair works to other neighborhoods and area networks within Santo Domingo’s greater metropolitan area.


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