With Chavez gone, what will become of his PetroCaribe program? Photo credit: Valter Campanato, Agencia Brasil

Among the questions arising after the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is what will become of the PetroCaribe program he started in 2005 and upon which many Caribbean economies have become dependent. Since it began, PetroCaribe has become a much-needed lifeline to countries in the region that are overly reliant on fossil fuel imports to supply their energy and transportation sectors. However, it has also increased the unsustainable debt levels of these countries. What comes next is uncertain as Venezuela prepares to elect Chavez’ successor as president of Venezuela next month.

Chavez started PetroCaribe with the aim of helping neighboring countries bear the burden of oil dependence at a time when oil prices began to rise sharply. Touted on its Web site as a “shield against misery,” the program allows participating Caribbean countries to purchase Venezuelan oil under preferential conditions. At the outset, 50 percent of the payment was due within 90 days with the remainder being financed over an extended period, sometimes up to as long as 25 years. The interest charged on the balance was at 2 percent but fell to 1 percent once oil surpassed US$40 per barrel.

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Caribbean, Caribbean Sustainable Energy, Climate Change, Dominican Republic, fossil fuels, Haiti, Jamaica, Low-Carbon Development, renewable energy, south america, sustainable development, Sustainable Energy Roadmaps, Venezuela

A team of Worldwatch researchers spent last week in Haiti meeting with energy sector stakeholders and visiting important energy project sites. The stakeholder meetings were incredibly enlightening and we learned a great deal about the obstacles to achieving improved and more widespread energy services throughout the country.

One successful energy project in Haiti is the solar installation on the roof of Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais. (Photo Credit: Matt Lucky)

Overall, there are a lot of determined people doing great work in Haiti, with the hope that they can improve the energy sector, including helping to expand electricity services beyond the 25 percent of the population that currently receives these services. A major barrier to expanded energy services, however, and something that was a common theme throughout our stakeholder meetings, is that Haiti currently lacks a clear and long-term energy framework.

While many energy plans have been developed by various government agencies, institutions, and consultancies, they remain interim, uncoordinated, and lack a common vision. As a result, plans often go unfulfilled or only accomplish isolated goals on a short-term basis. It is true that Haiti needs plans that can provide rapid results, as it is still recovering from the devastating 2010 earthquake and dealing with a number of other urgent, immediate challenges. However, Haiti is also in dire need of long-term and stable infrastructure development that will help it to prosper in the future, and a forward-thinking energy framework will go a long way in helping Haiti to accomplish this goal.

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Caribbean, developing countries, development, electricity, energy, energy policy, Haiti, low-carbon, renewable energy

At the close of a summer in which environmental news was dominated largely by record temperatures, devastating drought in the U.S. Midwest, and lackluster progress at the Rio+20 summit, reasons for optimism can seem few and far between. But in two seemingly unlikely places—countries commonly (though simplistically) associated with poverty, ecological disaster, and violence—renewable energy projects are demonstrating their ability not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but to power economic and social recovery.

Solar panels stacked on the roof of Mirebalais National Teaching Hospital. (Source: Partners in Health)

In both Haiti and Rwanda, recent stories of progress and achievement reveal how renewables are powering national development from the ground up.

Haiti: Building back better

In the wake of Haiti’s disastrous 2010 earthquake, which thrust the country once more into the international spotlight as tragic victim, the Haitian government and international organizations voiced the intention to “build back better.” The goal was to ensure that the post-earthquake rebuilding process focused not only on reconstructing fallen buildings, but on making sure that the country as a whole became more resilient.

According to the Haiti Regeneration Initiative, Haiti currently faces four major challenges: post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction; economic and social development; environmental stabilization and restoration; and increasing resilience against future hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, and economic shocks. A crucial element for achieving all four of these goals is the extension of affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity services.

The Haitian government recognizes the importance of electricity access. In January 2012, the government launched the Ban m limyè, Ban m lavi” (“Give me light, give me life”) program, an ambitious plan to extend electricity access to 200,000 rural households over the next two years. The program demonstrates an explicit commitment to making rural electrification a central component of the country’s broader development strategy.

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developing countries, development, energy, Haiti, renewable energy, Rwanda, solar power, sub-Saharan Africa

Climate scientists were surprised to discover that U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions recently decreased to levels not seen since 1992. While renewable energy has no doubt contributed to this recent trend, it is clear that the “shale gas revolution” and the recent U.S. transition away from coal and toward natural gas generation has had a very large impact on this encouraging trend.

The LNG terminal in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. (Source: Chicago Bridge & Iron)

One region where interest in natural gas has grown recently is the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago is already a global supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico are LNG importers, and nations like Haiti and Jamaica are considering building LNG import terminals of their own. LNG—the liquid form of natural gas that has one-six hundredth the volume per unit of energy of naturally occurring natural gas—is the form in which gas is typically shipped overseas. LNG imports are gaining traction in the Caribbean region, where tanker ships offload the fuel to be re-gasified and used to fuel natural gas power plants.

As seen in the United States, natural gas can play a significant role in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Moreover, at least in the United States, a shale gas boom has led to very low natural gas prices, making it cost competitive with almost any other source of power generation. However, it is unclear whether such benefits would translate to small island nations. The question that begs analysis is whether or not natural gas—in the form of imported LNG—is appropriate for small countries like those in the Caribbean region.

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Caribbean, Dominican Republic, energy, energy security, Haiti, liquefied natural gas, LNG, natural gas

Following the devastating 2010 earthquake, much of Haiti’s infrastructure, including its already limited ability to manage its municipal solid waste (MSW), was damaged or destroyed. Due largely to lack of public waste management services and sewage treatment centers, thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands more have suffered through outbreaks of cholera. Haiti needs improved sanitation, and improving and building infrastructure to reliably collect MSW will help achieve this goal.

Improved MSW management can also increase power generation from domestic sources in Haiti, providing some relief from its dependence on imported heavy fuel oil and helping to electrify a country where 75 percent of people do not have access to the grid.

Caribbean, developing countries, Haiti, health, renewable energy, sustainable development, waste-to-energy

This is the translation of a previous post, “The Fifth “E”: Is Energy Becoming a Presidential Priority in Haiti”. To read the original in English, please click here 

Aux quatre priorités que le président Martelly a identifiées pour son mandat, éducation, emploi, environnement, état de droit, qui composent les quatre « E », s’est ajoutée une cinquième priorité, l’énergie. Lors des ateliers sur l’énergie organisés par Dr. René Jean-Jumeau, Secrétaire d’Etat à l’Energie le 27-28 septembre, le Président a insisté sur l’impact désastreux des usages actuels de l’énergie sur la couverture végétale, et la nécessité d’une transition vers des sources d’énergie plus propres. Il a conclu : « nous avons besoin d’électricité pour développer l’industrie dont Haïti a besoin, nous avons besoin d’électricité dans nos campagnes, afin que s’estompent des soirs des ténèbres sans lune. » Le premier ministre Garry Conille a également repris ces priorités lors de son discours de politique générale.

La semaine de l'Energie s'est deroulee les 6-12 novembre dans les Caraibes.

Du 7 au 11 novembre, la Semaine de l’Energie s’est tenue au Parc Historique de la Canne à Sucre et à la faculté des Sciences de l’UEH, pour la première fois en Haïti. Pendant 5 jours, étudiants, personnel académique, entrepreneurs, hommes d’affaires, acteurs de la coopération internationale, ainsi que les hauts responsables du gouvernement ont discuté de l’énergie sous tous ses angles, et de son rôle essentiel dans la reconstruction et le développement d’Haïti. Cette exposition, ouverte à tous, a montré les technologies disponibles en Haïti pour substituer le charbon de bois, et améliorer l’efficience des réchauds utilisés actuellement, augmenter de manière signifiante l’électrification du pays, et développer les ressources renouvelables.

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Caribbean, distributed energy, Energy Access, energy planning, Haiti, natural gas, renewable energy, rural electrification

As discussed in a previous blog, Haiti remains largely dependent on charcoal and fuelwood for its energy services. This reliance has contributed to Haiti’s remarkable level of deforestation – only three percent of its original forest cover remains – and has led the government to begin considering energy alternatives. Previously, I described the costs and benefits of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and other energy alternatives like efficient cookstoves and waste paper briquettes. Below is an examination of another energy source that has gained some footing in Haiti recently: the jatropha tree.

Jatropha seedlings at a pilot project in Haiti (Source: Chibas).

The jatropha tree can grow in arid climates with poor soil quality, making it very suitable for a country like Haiti that has largely deforested and degraded lands. One study estimates that 1.114 million hectares of jatropha production could meet Haiti’s entire energy demand, and since 500,000 hectares of degraded hillside are available for jatropha production in Haiti, it could realistically replace much of the country’s current charcoal consumption without displacing food crops.

Jatropha could prove to be a useful crop, especially in the Haitian context, because of its diverse services. In terms of the electricity and transportation sectors, with some processing, jatropha oil can be blended into biodiesel and used for power generation or fueling cars. Unprocessed jatropha vegetable oil could also be used to fuel kerosene lamps and could even power households or small community electricity generators with little to no alterations.

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biomass, Caribbean, electricity, energy policies, energy security, Haiti, jatropha, renewable energy, sustainable development

A World Bank report concludes that liquified natural gas is the least-cost option for powering Haiti by 2028, but notes that renewable energy sources may also be cost effective.

Less than 30 percent of Haiti's population has access to electricity © Worldwatch

What options are available for Haiti’s energy future? The office of the country’s new State Secretary for Energy is weighing the available options for energy supply and beginning consultations to plan the next steps for Haiti’s power sector. In doing so, decision makers should consider not only the short-term technical and economic costs, but also the long-term environmental and social costs and benefits for Haiti’s population.

A March 2011 report, commissioned to Nexant by the World Bank and the Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility, a multi-donor technical assistance facility, explores future electricity supply options for the Caribbean region. For Haiti, the Nexant analysis presents three scenarios and concludes that liquified natural gas (LNG) is the cheapest fuel option at nearly all capacity factors. (See table.) The report also notes that renewable energy technologies such as wind power and hydropower are economically viable in the country through 2028.

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Caribbean, electricity grid, Haiti, Low-Carbon Development, natural gas, renewable energy

The Haitian government has identified energy as a key priority for the country’s future, providing direction for the Secretary of State for Energy to weigh various energy options. Previous posts have examined Haiti’s strong solar and wind generation potential. However, considering that only 5 percent of Haiti’s total primary energy is currently used for electricity production, it is extremely important to consider other energy uses.

An aerial view of the border between Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic (right). Only 3 percent of Haiti's forest remains. The charcoal and fuelwood industries have contributed significantly to deforestation. (Photo source: NASA)

Haiti depends heavily on charcoal and fuelwood for cooking services. About 95 percent of Haiti’s 10 million people use these fuels for their daily cooking needs, and charcoal (39 percent) and fuelwood (32 percent) account for 71 percent of the country’s total energy consumption.

Unfortunately, Haiti remains one of the most deforested nations in the world, with only 3 percent of its original forest cover remaining. Since fuelwood and charcoal – simply the product of wood heated in an oxygen-free environment – are derived from the remaining forest cover, the current energy industry is clearly unsustainable and Haiti needs to find suitable replacements for these fuels in the near future. There are many alternative energy sources, but a robust analysis of the economic, environmental, and social consequences of each is necessary for making informed decisions regarding future energy development.

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biomass, charcoal, energy, energy policies, green economy, Haiti, jatropha, liquid petroleum gas, sustainable development

November 6-12 is Energy Week in the Caribbean.

The winds of change are blowing in Haiti’s energy sector. President Joseph Martelly identified four priorities for his term: education, employment, environment and rule of law (Education, Emploi, Environnement, Etat de Droit – four “E”s in French). Last month, as the President attended a workshop on energy organized by Rene Jean-Jumeau, the recently nominated Secretary of State for Energy, he added energy as the fifth “E”. He emphasized the impact of the current energy situation on Haiti’s decreasing forest cover as trees are cut for the production of charcoal, and the importance of transitioning to a modern and resource efficient energy supply. President Martelly concluded, “Electricity is needed to develop Haiti’s industry, and cast away the darkness of moonless nights.” This added priority was also reflected in the general policy statement from the Prime Minister Garry Conille on October 11th, where he mentioned the development of alternative sources of energy (notably) and the improvement of the country’s electricity supply as national priorities.

Haiti’s energy sector is marked by very low per/capita energy consumption, a very low electrification rate, a high dependency on fossil fuels with the highest energy intensity in the whole Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, and high supply prices. Haiti’s energy sector is primarily reliant on charcoal, which represents 75 percent of the country’s final energy consumption and, along with fuel wood, often constitutes the only source of energy for households living in rural areas. Intensive use of charcoal has been hugely detrimental to the vegetation cover of Haiti. Over 70 percent of Haiti’s 10 million people live without access to the electricity grid, which has led President Martelly to comment, “in terms of energy, Haiti is still in the Middle Ages.”  About 63 percent of electricity generation in the country is based on imported diesel fuel, mainly from Venezuela. Hydropower constitutes 37 percent of the country’s electricity generation. A recent WorldBank/Nexant report identified imported distillate to be the most expensive fossil fuel resource option for Haiti in the future, after LNG and coal, with a forecasted levelized price of US $22.45/GJ over 2014-2028.

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Caribbean, developing countries, electricity, energy efficiency, Haiti, renewable energy, solar power, wind power