LES ANGLAIS, HAITI — On November 20th, 2012, EarthSpark International launched Haiti’s first pre-pay microgrid. Called EKo Pwòp (short for Elektrisite Kominote Pwòp, or “clean community electricity”) the grid enabled the 14 pioneer customers to light their homes, charge their phones and listen to music for an average US$1.50/month. Given that most households had previously been paying ~$10/month just to light their homes with dim and sooty kerosene. This first tiny grid offered customers significant savings while greatly increasing their quality of service. The grid also enabled EarthSpark to prove the viability of efficient lighting and pre-payment for electricity in rural Haiti. Leveraging EarthSpark’s work developing clean energy retail networks, EKo Pwòp customers could get updates on their consumption and top-up their energy account in the local “Clean Energy Store”. This payment system gave them the same flexibility as buying kerosene daily or paying a neighbor to charge their phones, while enabling cost recovery for EarthSpark. In October 2013, EarthSpark expanded grid coverage to a total of 54 customers including a school and several local businesses. With this first expansion, EarthSpark started offering higher levels of service and introduced a new, automatic communication system and custom-made smart meters to improve billing and payment collection. The new service levels partially addressed the higher consumption needs of clients who had previously relied on expensive individual diesel generators or paid battery charging from a neighbor’s diesel generator. Thanks to built-in load control and energy efficiency, these 54 customers only required about 1KW of power, powered by excess capacity from the nearby telecom tower thanks to a partnership with the telecom company Digicel.With over 30 months of operation, these two initial grid developments allowed EarthSpark to accumulate significant feedback on its model – on social impact, financial sustainability, and social acceptance. The 54 residential and small business customers grew accustomed to reliable, 24/7 electricity and paid regularly for the high-quality service they received. Others in the community soon started joining the waiting list for expanded grid service.
On April 26, 2015, EarthSpark expanded service to 430 households and businesses, which represent most of Les Anglais downtown area, thanks to a “USAID Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development” grant. The newly installed grid is powered by a state-of-the-art hybrid generation system including 90 kWp of PV capacity, 400 kWh of battery capacity and a small diesel backup generator. EarthSpark has also developed a town-scale distribution system, including a medium-voltage line to ensure quality of electricity and future expansions, a standard electrical installation and our next-gen smart meters provided by EarthSpark spin-off metering company SparkMeter, Inc.
This town-sized, solar-powered, smart grid is transforming Les Anglais, unlocking economic and social potential while serving as a model for EarthSpark to replicate in future grids in Haiti.
Thanks to the awesome and continued support of the Global Giving community (you!) this has been possible, and this is only the beginning. As always, we share our deep gratitute for your support in making this work possible.
On a mild January day, Blaise Heromme is going house to house in the southwestern Haitian town of Les Anglais, marking mounting locations for new customers' smart-meters. While a Les Anglais native, until recently, Blaise had been living in the capital, Port-au-Prince, due to a lack of work back home. Then late last summer, he received a text message from an excited cousin saying that EarthSpark was hiring certified electricians in Les Anglais. He jumped at the opportunity to be back with his family and, in no time, had an interview scheduled and was on a bus heading south. Fast forward to today and Blaise is part of a team of local electricians responsible for wiring homes and businesses in preparation for startup of the expanded Les Anglais microgrid.
For some perspective, since late 2012, EarthSpark International, with its local affiliate, EKo Pwòp, has provided affordable electricity to a small but diverse group of residents in Les Anglais. EarthSpark and EKo Pwòp, which stands for Elektrisite Kominote Pwòp (“clean community electricity” in Haitian Creole), have had tremendous success with this pilot microgrid. With access to reliable electricity, eligible households switched from smoky kerosene lamps to efficient light bulbs which are safer and cheaper to operate, while offering much higher quality light.
Then in late 2013, the system’s success resulted in a grant from USAID for the expansion of microgrid coverage to the entire Les Anglais downtown area and support for the electrification of local agricultural processing. It was clear that such a system would require a sizeable new generation source mated with new distribution infrastructure that could bring power to customers farther afield. So the EarthSpark team set out to design a system that would generate, store, and deliver electricity to the townspeople in an affordable, reliable, and sustainable manner.
Today, the expanded microgrid is nearing completion. Over the past six months, installation crews have built out a near-100 kilowatt solar photovoltaic array and, in parallel, a first-class distribution system that will soon be transmitting electricity to some 450 homes, small businesses, and public buildings—each wired by Blaise and his team. The new microgrid will be the first of its kind in Haiti, generating power almost exclusively from the sun and employing batteries for storage and smart meters for both maintaining system stability and allowing pre-pay capability.
For the vast majority of customers, this will be their first time with a grid connection, and everyone is excited to witness the positive impacts that electricity–such a versatile energy source—can have. Many customers will simply power lights and charge phones, but others will leverage this electricity to run small businesses. The project will also continue to provide employment to Blaise and other motivated individuals thanks to ongoing needs on the electrical, security, and maintenance fronts.
Start-up of the expanded grid is scheduled for early February, with full ramp-up in mid-March. And the entire EarthSpark team is excited to share updates with our donors as these milestones approach and beyond. We are exceptionally grateful for all the support we’ve received—financial, moral, and logistical. And we hope you’ll remain engaged as we work to make energy poverty a thing of the past in Haiti.
At a small technical college in Port-au-Prince, five new Enèji Pwòp Retailers gathered in late September for our sixth training session. One woman, Jonas, had first heard about Enèji Pwòp after a presentation at her daughter's art school. After the presentation, her daughter brought one of our solar lamps home, and their family was able to see its benefits firsthand. After using the lamp for a few weeks, Jonas decided to join the Enèji Pwòp team and signed up for the next Retailer Training — bringing with her Diana, another mother from her daughter's program. Now, both of them are prepared to improve the lives of many others with the benefits of Enèji Pwòp products. (Read more about the presentation on our blog at the link below.)
Jonas is a perfect example of the ways in which Enèji Pwòp can come full circle to benefit not just one individual, but also her family, friends, and entire community. With the help of our market development staff, Sandra and Hugo, we’ve been steadily adding new Retailers like Jonas to our network: 24 of the Retailers we’ve trained since our last report were new to Enèji Pwòp! Our training is key for these new Retailers, even those who already have other small businesses. As Terry, from Port-au-Prince, said, the training “allowed me to improve my marketing strategies, see the key attributes of the products I sell, and meet the staff who work with Enèji Pwòp.” This face time with Enèji Pwòp staff is one of the things that makes our training program particularly motivational, giving each entrepreneur many opportunities for questions and input.
Over the next three months, we will continue to give our newly minted clean energy entrepreneurs the opportunity to build small social businesses and dramatically improve the lives of their families and customers. Did you know that replacing just one kerosene lamp with our Lanp Enèji Pwòp — the smallest product we offer — can save a family about $30 per year? That might not seem like a lot at first, but $30 can represent more than 10% of the annual income of an average Haitian family.
What could you do with an extra 10% in income every year?
We hope you’ll consider this question as GlobalGiving’s next Bonus Day approaches. On Wednesday, October 15, gifts of up to $1000 per donor will be matched at 30%. We encourage you to use the Bonus Day as an opportunity to donate $24 — which will stretch to $30 — to reflect the energy savings our products bring to each new family served by an Enèji Pwòp Retailer.
Each donation helps us support another Retailer like Biligram, who said that the training was “a path that will carry me for the rest of my life.” As always, thank you for your generosity in support of our training program — and all of our work helping people here in Haiti to create paths out of energy poverty.