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Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti

by EarthSpark International
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Eradicating Energy Poverty in Haiti
Cooking Demonstration with Blaise in Les Anglais
Cooking Demonstration with Blaise in Les Anglais

Dear Friends,

We’re halfway through 2020 and the energy, economic, and environmental impact of our grids now benefit 4000+ people directly and 8800+ indirectly. Here are some of EarthSpark’s key storylines.

Tiburon Continues to Grow

Even despite slowdowns because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our second microgrid has grown significantly and is now serving over 380 connections, including 46 streetlights in the town of Tiburon. Tiburon customers have even shown higher per capita consumption and higher per capita transactions compared to our first microgrid in Les Anglais. Over the next few years, the Tiburon microgrid is expected to serve over 500 households and businesses.

Feminist Electrification Wins!

EarthSpark's Feminist Electrification methodology added another award to its decorated history winning the Alliance for Rural Electrification's 2020 Award for "Best Female Empowerment Initiative". This framework underpins all of our work and ensures that everyone can benefit from our microgrids according to their unique needs.

Unlocking Clean Cooking

Almost every household in Haiti cooks with wood or charcoal. Breathing smoke from these fires is bad for people’s health, especially for the women and young children who are traditionally most exposed. Electric cooking can not only reduce health risks from traditional fuels, it can also save time for women and children which can be used for other jobs, education, or simply leisure. There are also real climate benefits from avoiding traditional fuels.

To demonstrate the potential of electric cooking in rural Haiti, EarthSpark is piloting electric pressure cookers and induction stoves with 30 customers. Coupled with in-person demonstrations from our grid ambassador, the households will record their reactions and opinions on electric cooking, and EarthSpark will analyze electricity consumption patterns to inform future electric cooking initiatives.

Protecting Our Team and Our Communities

Energy is essential, and as Haiti navigates COVID-19, the EarthSpark and Enèji Pwòp teams are keeping the power on while adapting processes to keep our teams and customers safe. From fabricating face shields with materials on hand in Les Anglais to working with the local women’s cooperative to sew facemasks, EarthSpark has been adapting. This includes new handwashing stations, operating procedures for entering customer homes, and phone communications in place of in-person meetings. Progress has slowed on new connections and new grids, but we are working diligently to continue to serve our customers, while protecting our team and communities.

 Gratefully yours,

 Andy

Grid Ambassador Omelia in TIburon
Grid Ambassador Omelia in TIburon
Cooking Demonstration with Roseanne
Cooking Demonstration with Roseanne
Eneji Pwop Technicians in Tiburon
Eneji Pwop Technicians in Tiburon
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Dear Friends,
 
I’m thrilled to share that the residents of Tiburon, Haiti now have access to clean, 24-hr, prepay electricity!The EarthSpark and Enèji Pwòp teams launched service December 21, 2019. The launch is a long time in the making, and we’re extremely grateful to everyone who has been with us through this journey. Grid #2 is just the beginning, and with Tiburon turned on, we’re looking forward to a lot of momentum leading to more grids in 2020! Read the excerpt below for more on a historic day for EarthSpark and the community of Tiburon.

 

"The system is the first community-power grid to be approved under Haiti’s new national regulatory body. Building on EarthSpark’s model of community-scale smart solar infrastructure, the grid will serve 500 homes and businesses with 24/7 electricity in Tiburon, a small fishing town in the southern peninsula. The launch marks a major step in mainstreaming microgrid power in Haiti.

“Microgrids hold enormous potential to quickly bring electricity to communities across rural Haiti. For 10 years now, EarthSpark and our Haitian affiliate Enèji Pwòp have been building a foundational track record of clean energy delivery in rural Haiti,” says Allison Archambault, President at EarthSpark International. “The launch of the Tiburon grid is a success story for multi-sector partnerships building a market that can scale-up to sustainably electrify the 70% of the Haitian population still living without electricity.”

To achieve the launch, EarthSpark worked closely not only with the community of Tiburon, but also with local and national elected officials, with the national regulatory authority, the national electricity company Électricité d’Haïti, the Haitian engineering firm DigitalKap, and with international stakeholders including the US Agency for International Development and the World Bank to inform practical and policy next steps.

"The government is committed to improving electricity access in rural regions by deploying smart microgrids in more than 51 sites. Today, with the collaboration of EarthSpark and Enèji Pwòp, we did it in Tiburon in the South Department. This is the first provisional license for a community microgrid ever signed by the regulatory authority for the energy sector," said Dr. Evenson Calixte, Director of the National Regulatory Authority (ANARSE).

EarthSpark’s microgrids directly achieve the United Nation’s seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), affordable and clean energy, while unlocking opportunities to progress all 17 goals including:

  • SDG 1 No Poverty: Residential customers save up to 80% and commercial customers save up to 50% on pre-grid energy expenses (ie. candles, kerosene, and diesel).
  • SDG 3 Good Health and Well-being: Electricity displaces fuels like candles, kerosene, and some charcoal which release harmful air pollutants which contribute to causing respiratory health diseases especially for women.
  • SDG 11/13 Sustainable Cities and Communities/Climate Action: Clean and decentralized microgrids build economic and climate resilience in Haiti’s most climate vulnerable communities.
  • SDG 16 Peace and Justice Strong Institutions: The first microgrid authorized by the Government of Haiti’s new regulator created to reform energy in Haiti, including the promotion of private microgrid development."

 

Residents of Tiburon have joined a small handful of communities in the Caribbean nation with reliable 24-hour electricity. Thank you for sticking with EarthSpark as we work slowly and steadily to build the path for clean energy for all.

 
With gratitude and warm wishes,
Allison

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A Message From Our President

Dear friends,

Have you eaten recently? Taken a breath? Some actions are so basic that we can overlook them as core ingredients of the human experience. Across continents, people are eating food, breathing air.

Cooking is culture, and fuel has long been fire. The food and energy systems that enable cooking are nearly as varied as families’ recipes. In Haiti, more than 90% of meals are cooked over firewood or charcoal. Those smoky cooking fires have environmental, health, and quality of life consequences. Soot from the fires is a climate warmer. Breathing smoke harms the lungs of those in the kitchen. Fetching or buying fuel and tending fires takes time and care. For these reasons, EarthSpark is thrilled to be working on a holistic approach to cooking and electricity access (more on that below.) 

Leading into Thanksgiving, I am grateful for all that remains possible, for all that feels urgent in an enabling way. Our Tiburon grid is still locked in pre-launch regulatory questions. The climate crisis advances. And yet, there’s still so much possibility and so much good work underway. 

What if we all turned to clean energy systems for all of our energy needs? What if tiny towns in rural Haiti could prove to us that is possible?

Thank you for your thoughtfulness in engaging with us in this work, and happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

With appreciation,
Allison

 

Welcoming the Giving Season

In September we announced our partnership with MECS to launch a landmark electric cooking pilot and a short documentary companion piece. Equipment assembly has commenced, and we have begun crowdfunding for the visual series with enthusiastic support from the Les Anglais diaspora community.

With GivingTuesday approaching next week, we hope you’ll consider supporting our work to eliminate harmful charcoal and wood-based cooking from Haitian homes through innovating electric cooking. We gratefully ask that you consider including EarthSpark International in your charitable giving this year.

Please be sure to follow us on Facebook or find us on GlobalGiving to make the most of donation matching this GivingTuesday!

Our sincere thanks to our many kind and generous supporters throughout 2019 so far.

 

Understanding Resilience in Haiti's Unrest

Energy resilience reaches into the very heart of communities, economies, and politics. Haiti’s increasingly beleaguered energy sector is both symptom and cause to Haiti’s current unrest. Here's a brief energy lens background on the nationwide protests you may have seen in the headlines:

  • Most of Haiti’s electricity production is generated by expensive, imported fuel oil

  • Haiti and Venezuela’s oil and aid agreement (PetroCaribe) prematurely disintegrated in 2017 due to Venezuela’s retracted oil production

  • The agreement breakdown revealed corruption spanning 4 Haitian presidencies, millions in aid money is unaccounted for

  • Nationwide anti-corruption protests have been simmering for a year, bringing the country to a standstill for weeks at a time

  • Some businesses are closing their doors, access to essential services are limited; farmers and traders are unable to move their food to market across roadblocks, and there is deep humanitarian concern for the most vulnerable

  • The government of Haiti, the opposition, private industry, and protestors are at a stalemate

Due to fuel shortages, even private generators have frequently sputtered to a halt in recent months. Extended blackouts have become even more the norm, and the government is now clashing with private central grid operators to reform the central grid. Meanwhile, Les Anglais remains relatively untouched while other rural communities feel the impacts of burgeoning energy scarcity. The Les Anglais power remains on 24/7. Businesses and schools are open. Rebuffing protests in the south, the Les Anglais community is a shining example of how decentralized, sustainable energy infrastructure helps build resilient homes, businesses, and towns.


Les Anglais businesses are able to keep their doors and the lights on despite unrest across large parts of the country.

Amidst this national crisis, we continue our work to enable more microgrids in Haiti. We are reminded that scaling microgrids is not merely an infrastructure project, it is also an opportunity to scale locally resilient governance, climate solutions, and economic activity. Climate resilience is not just a Haitian problem, it is a human problem, and we are motivated to continue finding and demonstrating the solutions.

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Les Anglais Girls' Soccer team putting up a fight
Les Anglais Girls' Soccer team putting up a fight

"Fèt" means "Party"!

Summertime means fèt season for towns across Haiti. Commemorating historic events or patron saints, a town fèt draws families and friends near and far back into the community to celebrate with food and music. Over the weekend of August 10th, Tiburon celebrated its fèt with its first taste of what microgrid-powered nightlife looks like. While the national regulator deliberates on terms for EarthSpark to provide power to the town, provisional permission was granted for us to power streetlights for the Fet. As our team turned the key at the generation site for the first time beyond system checks, the streets erupted with cheers and celebratory car horns. Although receiving the full authority to turn on Tiburon is an arduous process, Tiburon and EarthSpark are more determined than ever to work towards a precedent-setting solution.

A week later, the Les Anglais population seemingly doubled as people flocked to the town for their Fèt. Music, ice-cold drinks, soccer festivals, and a town beach party all showcased Les Anglais as the best-powered town in the country. A young woman visiting from Port-au-Prince gushed over her ability to buy electricity credits from a vendor at her convenience and then to find the light was on by the time she walked back to her house. By comparison to the intermittent, unreliable, and expensive grid service in Haiti's capital, she was excited by the reality that quality and affordable electricity is possible in Haiti.

As EarthSpark scales our model for electrification, the solutions for Haiti’s best energy systems are coming from Haiti’s rural reaches.

 

Electric Cooking Pilot + Documentary Launch

Our microgrids are already replacing candles, kerosene, and diesel, however, the current cost of electricity and the efficiency of electric appliances means most households in the towns we serve still cook over charcoal and wood fires. Solving energy poverty fundamentally includes bringing better, cleaner solutions to cooking. To that end, we’re in the early stages of launching an electric cooking pilot in Les Anglais for off- and on-grid households. We look forward to releasing more details about this soon.

Cooking, however, is a deeply emotional and cultural act. A technical solution does not mean communities will adopt it. In tandem with the pilot we’re excited to announce we’re in producing a short documentary that will trace personal narratives across the town of Les Anglais, connecting the nation's past, present, and future of energy, culture, and development as they trial electric cooking for the very first time. It will reveal the shifts in health, household economics, and habits, providing powerful insights for innovators working to eradicate energy poverty.

Next month we’re launching a new GlobalGiving microproject campaign for our ‘Cooking is Culture’ documentary. We have a target of $6,500 and supporters of the campaign will be rewarded with exciting perks! You can view the page here, but we'll officially launch in middle September.

 

Thank you again for your generosity. We're excited to share this new exploration in energy access with you.

Customer selling food and drinks during Fet.
Customer selling food and drinks during Fet.
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It takes all 3 for a successful microgrid
It takes all 3 for a successful microgrid

Drum roll please. The Tiburon grid is…ready to go, but still not on! 

We’re thrilled to share that the EarthSpark’s long-anticipated second grid in the town of Tiburon is ready for the switch to be thrown. Technical testing saw streetlights blazing across the town and customers are now signing up and getting their homes and businesses wired up for power. 

The catch? In an evolving legal and regulatory environment, we’re dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s and defining what constitutes operational approval from local and the relatively new national authorities. It’s hard to say whether the people of Tiburon or the EarthSpark team is more anxious to see the grid turned on, but we want to do it well and in collaboration with all of the relevant authorities. June 24 is a big holiday in Tiburon, so we’re hoping that we’ll all be able to find clarity before then to be able to power up the party (and the town!)

While the evolving regulatory challenges are a frustrating delay, they are a part of a broader shift for Haitian microgrids, and that is excellent news. When EarthSpark launched our first microgrid in 2012, our work was considered extremely fringe and essentially irrelevant to the national energy policy framework. When we expanded that grid in 2015 to be a ‘town-sized solar-powered smart grid’, policymakers took notice. Our 2015 National Microgrid Market Study furthered the discussion and became a benchmark document referenced by national and international authorities on rural electrification for Haiti.

Our steady work of “Proving what is possible” and “De-risking by doing” has not been fast, but it has been constant. We are now (finally!) seeing the shift that recognizes clean energy community microgrids as essential elements of solving energy access in Haiti. There are growing pains associated with that shift: new regulators, new rules, but we are working with the stakeholders to try to make sure that the outcomes enable EarthSpark’s broader goal of mainstreaming microgrids and specifically “moving microgrids towards market” in Haiti.  For broad deployment of microgrids, smart regulation and clear policies are essential.

We’ll let you know as soon as we are able to flip that switch on in Tiburon, and we’ll keep you posted, as always, as we work to continue pushing and proving what is possible for community-centered rural electrification in Haiti.

Warm summer regards,
Allison and the rest of the EarthSpark team

 

PS. We have a long way to go before we fully realize the vision of widespread gender equality across all aspects of our power systems, but EarthSpark is honored and delighted to be pushing progress on this as core to our work. You can check out the UNFCCC's gorgeous new video of our "Feminist Electrification" work here: https://vimeo.com/338840710

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Organization Information

EarthSpark International

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @earthsparkintl
Project Leader:
Allison Archambault
Washington, DC United States
$19,497 raised of $25,000 goal
 
397 donations
$5,503 to go
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