Throughout the 1960s 70s and 80s, Cuba traded one ton of sugar to the Soviet Union in exchange for four tons of oil. This agreement helped the Cuban economy progress in the face of the U.S. trade embargo. But the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ushered in what Cubans call the country’s “Special Period,” an economic crisis punctuated by a sudden lack of fossil fuel energy that crippled every sector of the country’s economy.

Oil shortages have left Cuba with old-school ways of manifesting the the power of the future.

This major setback resulted in an economy that moves at a glacial pace. The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that despite Cuba’s own oil reserves, a healthy volume of imports from Venezuela, and large investment in the island’s refining capacities, troubles such as inconsistent supply and electricity shortages persist. As a result, the country launched its “Energy Revolution” in 2006. The goal was – and still is – to decentralize power generation, improve transmission lines, replace old appliances with energy-efficient ones, and increase the presence of renewable energy sources.

To that end, Cuba’s state-owned Zerus S.A. recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Havana Energy Ltd., a U.K.-based renewable energy company, to develop a 30 megawatt MW pilot project for generating electricity from sugarcane stalk residue, or bagasse, at a sugar mill in Ciro Redondo. It’s the first step of a larger project that has the potential to satisfy almost half of the island’s 3,000 MW power needs and to possibly deliver a return on investment in just five years.

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Caribbean renewable energy, developing countries, energy, renewable energy, renewable energy investment, sugarcane bagasse