Universal energy access is fundamental to achieving Haiti’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as greater access to energy facilitates progress in education as well as poverty and mortality reduction.  The dynamic development strategy embodied in the MDGs is ineffective unless accompanied by affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy services provided by a capable electricity distribution grid. Haiti is lagging behind in its progress on almost all of its MDGs, and much of this is due to a lack of reliable energy access in the country.

Haiti’s population has the lowest levels of electrification in the Western Hemisphere, with an estimated 70 percent of the population not connected to the grid. Many areas that have access to the grid only have limited access, such as in metropolitan Port-au-Prince, where power is available for only 10 hours daily to most power consumers. Implementing the use of sustainable energy in the form of solar, wind, or hydro power will work to close the development gaps created by a lack of electricity services through several dimensions.

Haiti's MDGs' Progress Report Card Source: UNICEF


Reducing dependency on expensive fossil fuels by transitioning to renewable energies in countries like Haiti, which has no oil reserves of its own, increases domestic revenue streams that can be channeled into other sectors such as healthcare and education.  The use of renewables also diversifies Haiti’s energy portfolio, which reduces the country’s vulnerability to oil price fluctuations. According to Haiti’s Energy Sector Development Plan 2007 – 2017 “Haiti’s petroleum products subsector, which represents only 20-25% of the national energy supply, uses more than 35-50% of external receipts of the country.”

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Caribbean, development, Energy Access, Haiti, Milleniunm Development Goals, renewable energy
Session of the United Nations climate negotiations October 2 in Panama City. Source: International Institute for Sustainable Development

Session of the United Nations climate negotiations October 2 in Panama City. Source: International Institute for Sustainable Development

Panama is only a short hop from the Caribbean islands now home to Worldwatch Institute’s Low-Carbon Energy Roadmaps project. But, it’s a big leap from the national renewable energy strategies being developed in the Caribbean to the tense efforts just wrapping up in Panama City to agree on global climate change reduction goals.

The Panama meetings from October 1-7 marked the final preparatory negotiation before the next United Nations climate change summit convenes in Durban, South Africa from November 28-December 10. With many issues on the negotiating table, countries made surprising progress on providing funding for climate change solutions, especially in developing countries. Countries also pushed big issues like a new global climate agreement and the next stage of the Kyoto Protocol onto an already overflowing agenda for Durban.

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Australia, aviation, banks, Brazil, BRICS, Cancun, carbon dioxide, charge, China, clean technollgy, Climate Change, Copenhagen, December, Dominican Republic, Durban, emissions, entrepreneurs, European Union, finance, G20, Green Climate Fund, greenhouse gas, Haiti, hop, India, International Monetary Fund, Jamaica, jump, Kyoto Protocol, LBI, legally binding instrument, New Zealand, October, Panama, pollution, renewable energy, Roadmap, shipping, South Africa, tax, Technology Executive Committee, trading, trip, United States, World Bank

Matt Lucky presenting the potential for wind energy in Haiti at an energy sector stakeholder meeting in Port-au-Prince (Source: Worldwatch).

Last week, Xing Fu-Bertaux and I presented Worldwatch’s Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap work to a conference convened by Haiti’s presidential advisor for energy, Dr. René Jean-Jumeau. The conference, held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was attended by many of Haiti’s most important energy sector stakeholders and was organized to discuss the future of the country’s energy sector. The presentation was well received, and stakeholders were very interested in our high-resolution renewable energy resource maps.

With assistance from 3TIER – a company that generates GIS maps for solar and wind resources – I presented country-wide maps exploring the potential of wind and solar resources in Haiti. Stakeholders were enthusiastic to learn that nearly all of Haiti has high levels of Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI), which is the type of radiation applicable to solar photovoltaic (PV) development.

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Caribbean, Haiti, Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap, solar power, wind energy

This week, Xing Fu-Bertaux and Matthew Lucky of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy team are meeting with senior policymakers and educators in Port-au-Prince at a high-level workshop on Haiti’s energy future. They will be writing an in-depth post about the conference for ReVolt next week. As part of our ongoing work in the Caribbean, Worldwatch is currently focusing on the electricity sector in Haiti and the development of a low-carbon growth strategy.

Haiti has a population of nearly 10 million with a significantly underdeveloped energy infrastructure. Over 70 percent of Haiti’s people have gone without access to the electricity grid for years. The 2010 earthquake further exacerbated Haiti’s infrastructure challenges, leaving over 80 percent of the population without access to electricity and the many vital services that require power. For those Haitians that do have electricity access, service is often intermittent and unreliable.

Presidential Advisor on Energy, Dr. René Jean-Jumeau addresses energy leaders in Port-au-Prince.

Haiti’s current predicament has received ample media exposure since the earthquake. Although international aid and emergency relief programs are providing invaluable support, they are only part of the answer. Haitian leaders are searching for long-term solutions that promote sustainability, growth, and access to electricity. The Haitian Parliament’s recent approval of Garry Conille, President Martelly’s appointment for Prime Minister, has provided a measure of direction for the public sector in pursuit of its development and reconstruction goals. In anticipation of this new government, energy professionals are eager to set Haiti on a sustainable growth trajectory. Earlier this week, Worldwatch researchers Xing Fu-Bertaux and Matthew Lucky joined decision makers from all over the country for a special two-day workshop in Port-au-Prince organized by Dr. René Jean-Jumeau, Presidential Advisor for Energy, to discuss ways in which they can work together to promote the Haitian energy sector. Energy policy, procurement, rural electrification, and sustainability received particular emphasis at the workshop.

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Caribbean, developing countries, electricity, energy, Haiti, renewable energy, solar power, sustainable development

A photovoltaic solar power system at a Partners in Health clinic in Haiti (Source: Solar World)

With Worldwatch’s Energy Roadmaps for the Caribbean work in Haiti, the Institute plans to create a comprehensive report that will become resourceful to the Haitian government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Haiti, and other domestic stakeholders in transitioning the present energy system to one less dependent on fossil fuels in the future. Another goal of Worldwatch’s work is to complement the existing work of other NGOs in Haiti to advance economic and infrastructural growth for a country in much need of development. Highlighted below are some of the projects other NGOs are working on to ensure sustained public health services in Haiti.

In modern medicine, electricity provides the backbone for any functional medical center. In a country where the infection rates of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) are extraordinarily high, electricity is essential for medical technologies such as lab analysis, medical equipment, and diagnostic testing at hospitals and clinics. An estimated 1.9 percent of Haitian adults live with HIV, while out of every 100,000 Haitians, 306 are infected with TB. Moreover, vaccines that help to prevent other communicable diseases, such as pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus, require refrigeration as they need to be kept below room temperature.

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Caribbean, Haiti, renewable energy, solar power, sustainable development

Worldwatch researchers recently returned from Haiti as a part of the Energy Roadmaps for the Caribbean Project. One exciting idea that grew out of our meetings with government, utility, and private sector officials is the potential for wind and pumped-storage hydro systems on the island of Hispaniola.

A wind and pumped-storage hydro system is an old technology with a new twist, and it is a technology that is being explored on several small islands around the world.

A model of the wind and pumped-storage hydro system on El Hierro (Source: ThomasNet News and Gorona del Viento El Hierro)

For the past half century, countries including the United States have used excess electricity from fossil fuel and nuclear power plants during periods of low power demand to pump water uphill to be stored in reservoirs as potential energy. Then, when demand peaks the reservoirs are opened, allowing water to pass through hydroelectric facilities to generate the needed electricity to meet power demand.

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Caribbean, developing countries, emissions reductions, energy security, Green Technology, Haiti, hydropower, Innovation, low-carbon, renewable energy, wind power

On July 25th, 2011, The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) committed $35 million to help reconstruct Haiti’s electricity sector. The grant is the first of three policy-based operations the IDB expects to conduct over the next three years to help Haiti build a reliable and sustainable electricity grid.

The objectives of the grant are to develop and implement a new legal and regulatory framework to foster Haitian-based institutional capacity to govern and oversee the power sector while supporting the use of clean energy. Specifically, plans include supporting the creation of an Energy Direction as an autonomous entity in charge of planning, regulation and supervision of the energy sector. Importantly, this is the first step towards the creation of a Ministry of Energy, which Haiti does not yet have. The plans further call for expanding electricity access to rural areas and developing an institutional and regulatory strategy for urban biomass and Liquefied Petroleum Natural Gas. Finally, the grant aims to convert the national utility Electricité d’Haïti (EDH) into a financially and operationally viable company through short term targets of creating operational and financial indicators for EDH in an effort to reduce operational costs. The long term objective is to open up participation to the private sector by working with Haiti’s already established Commission for the Modernization of Public Enterprises.

Haiti has nine isolated small electricity grids throughout the country as opposed to one national transmission grid. A recently-approved grant by the Inter-American Development Bank aims to help Haiti increase the efficiency and reliability of their electricity sector.


EDH was created in 1971 and has a national monopoly on electricity generation, transmission, distribution and commercialization. It was formed to control the newly built Péligre hydroelectric plant. Since then, efforts have been made to privatize the company in part due to a Structural Adjustment Program led by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in 1995; however, these efforts have since stalled. Today, combined technical and commercial electricity losses are above 50 percent. The Government of Haiti transfers 12 percent of the national budget annually, or over $100 million, to keep the company afloat.

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developing countries, development, energy efficiency, Haiti, low-carbon, renewable energy

The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations convened on June 23rd to discuss the effectiveness of U.S.-led international aid efforts in Haiti. The hearing focused on how international efforts can assist Haiti form a successful and self-sufficient government under its newly elected President, Michel Martelly.  The panelists, who represented a broad range of sectors, from earthquake recovery to agriculture to manufacturing, agreed that foreign assistance initiatives in Haiti need to be better coordinated and integrated. Gary Shaye, Country Director for Save the Children, and Georges Barau Sassine, President of the Association of Haitian Industries, also emphasized the need for long-term support. Many current funding initiatives are still a response to the acute humanitarian catastrophe following the earthquake that hit Haiti on January 12, 2010 and thus expressly meant to be short-term. Their time horizons of only six to nine months are inconsistent with the sustained challenges facing Haiti.

Charcoal sales point in southern Port au Prince (c) A. Ochs

Panelists further agreed that stimulating private investment is vital for Haiti’s development, though specific suggestions varied. Recommendations for fostering a positive investment environment included improving protection of property rights, addressing health and education issues, focusing on domestic private investment in addition to foreign direct investment, and facilitating access to credit. Major Joseph Bernadel of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission mentioned energy as one of eight key areas in need of development. Regine Simon-Barjon, President of BioTek Haiti S.A., highlighted the important synergies between improvements in energy and other sectors. Her company is currently partnering with the Haitian government to rehabilitate 15,000 hectares of land to harvest and mill 1000 metric tons of sugar per year. The project will reduce sugar imports and provide 12-15 megawatts (MW) of electricity capacity from sugar cane bagasse biomass to service the Port-au-Prince region.

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Caribbean development, Energy Map, green economy, Haiti, renewable energy

Earlier this year The Worldwatch Institute went to Santo Domingo for the 2011 Caribbean Clean Energy Business Forum. Alexander Ochs, the Director of our Climate and Energy team, presented on our Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap methodology and upcoming work in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica.

Other presenters included Rene Jean-Jumeau, the Coordinator of the Energy Sector Management Unit at the Haitian Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications and one of our key partners in Haiti. He spoke about the Haitian energy system and the needs and opportunities for investment in renewable energy.

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biomass, Caribbean, Caribbean renewable energy, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Low-Carbon Development, Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap, low-carbon roadmap, renewable energy, small hydro, solar, wind

Sunrise in Punta Cana

Worldwatch’s Energy and Climate team is busy implementing a one-year initiative, funded by the Energy and Environment Partnership with Central America (EEP), to develop a Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap for wind and solar power in the Dominican Republic. We will soon begin a similar project in Haiti and Jamaica and expand our work in the Dominican Republic to include other resources, including biomass, with the sponsorship of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

Through these initiatives, we are taking a holistic approach to documenting the potential for low-carbon development, which we believe will provide insights directly useful to policymakers and business leaders. The first half of the project has yielded good results, and we hope it will be the first of many such projects for our Caribbean Program.

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3TIER, biomass, BMU, Caribbean, Dominican Republic, EEP, Haiti, IKI, Jamaica, Low-Carbon Development, Low-Carbon Energy Roadmap, oil imports, REEEP, renewable energy, small hydro, solar, wind