Molly Hellmuth is the Climate Resiliency Senior Advisor for USAID’s Integrated Resource and Resilience Planning projects in Ghana and Tanzania. She is an international expert in water resources, climate risk management and resilient development. She has over 20 years of international experience, and has developed climate risk management strategies, tools, models and guidelines for various clients, including for USAID, the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the ASEAN Centre for Energy, the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Western Electric Coordinating Council (WECC) and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy (DOD, DOE), among others. She has provided guidance on building climate resilience in the power sector for the U.S. MCC and WECC and has developed specific guidance on climate risk and resilience of hydropower plants for USAID and DOE. She holds a PhD and M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Colorado-Boulder, a B.S. in Environmental Studies and a B.A. in French.
Municipal Hurricane Resilience in the Dominican Republic
In 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria were forecast to hit the Dominican Republic. ClimaPlan, a USAID project working with the Dominican municipality of Las Terrenas, recognized that these hurricanes would provide an opportunity to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the city’s climate resilience and adaptation capacity. Fortunately, neither Hurricane Irma nor Maria made landfall in Las Terrenas. However, heavy rainfall, storm surges and high winds damaged infrastructure and businesses and impacted a local economy that is based heavily in tourism.
The project team conducted a Post-Event Assessment of Resilience (PEAR) to document the impacts of the hurricanes and the sensitivity of the people, the power system and other municipal assets to the storms. The PEAR process consists of five steps, beginning with a pre-assessment and ending with a post-event assessment based on field visits and analyses.
ClimaPlan’s PEAR provided several insights, including that electricity distribution is one of the most critical services vulnerable to climate change. Due to its distributed geographic coverage and interconnected nature, electricity distribution is exposed to a broad range of climate stressors. In addition, electrical supply disruptions can have cascading effects that impact all other services.
Las Terrenas’ resourceful approach to turning a negative event into a productive one serves as a model for conducting PEAR and for recognizing the benefits of assessing climate resilience on a local scale.
The PEAR reaffirmed the need for stronger land use planning and enforcement. It also provided specific strategies and recommendations that could be included in municipal and land use plans to increase the resilience of the power sector and other key municipal services. Las Terrenas’ resourceful approach to turning a negative event into a productive one serves as a model for conducting PEAR and for recognizing the benefits of assessing climate resilience on a local scale.
A new paper in the Resources to Advance LEDS Implementation (RALI) Series summarizes the PEAR process in Las Terrenas and how the results can help to improve climate resilience capacity at the city level.
The RALI paper summarizes the findings of the assessment, including an evaluation of the impacts of the hurricanes on power services; a description of the measures taken by the power utility, city and other entities; and identification of key lessons and strategies to increase resilience to future climate events.
The authors would like to thank Dr. Alejandro Moreno for his invaluable work supporting the PEAR assessment of Las Terrenas.
Joanne Potter has more than 15 years of experience in climate change, adaptation, mitigation and sustainability. She manages USAID’s Climate Resilient Infrastructure Services program. She has supported development of USAID's first federal adaptation plan under Council on Environmental Quality guidelines and the World Bank's sectoral guidance for staff to screen road projects in developing countries for climate risk. Ms. Potter has also worked with the U.S. Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program to identify policy considerations regarding climate change risks on coastal military installations. Ms. Potter has a master's degree in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.