Worldwatch in Haiti, Haiti on the Hill: New Energy for Haiti’s Development

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.

Worldwatch has long argued that the development of a sustainable and reliable energy system needs to be at the center of all development efforts in Haiti because of the importance of electricity and fuel supply for other key sectors including health, sanitation, food production, construction, education and telecommunication. As part of the Institute’s Caribbean Energy Initiative, a team of researchers were recently in Haiti meeting with the Haitian government and other domestic stakeholders and experts as well as experts from international organizations to discuss how the energy system can be improved quickly, and what a long-term strategy can look like. Supported by a grant from the German government’s International Climate Initiative, Worldwatch is designing energy roadmaps for the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica that address economic, social, and environmental needs.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Haiti’s 2007 per capita energy consumption was about 1/10 as much as that in the neighboring Dominican Republic, and about 1/24 the global average. The Western Hemisphere’s poorest country is on the same level as war-torn Afghanistan. The country needs new energy for sustained economic development.

Source: The Oil Drum, based on EIA International Energy Statistics

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