The much vaunted phrase “win-win” doesn’t begin to capture the Haitian rural electrification project I have recently been evaluating. The Earth Spark mini-grid project implemented through local affiliate Enèji Pwòp (Clean Energy in the Haitian Creole language) combines energy access with energy transition, promotes the concept of Feminist Electrification http://www.earthsparkinternational.org/blog/feminist-electrification, builds rural livelihoods and addresses energy poverty reduction. You can add to the mix a dash of avoided deforestation, reduction of indoor air pollution and an increase food security through the electrification of on-site post-harvest processing.
The natural beauty of Haiti and the warmth of its people masks an underlying lack of economic opportunity, a worsening environment (evidenced by lack of waste and sanitation provision in the southern peninsula), poorly developed transport infrastructure, climatic vulnerability and the ever present risk of weather related disaster.
It is against this backdrop, that Enèji Pwòp has implemented an UNFCCC award winning solar minigrid system. I visited two towns where solar arrays had been deployed, met local consumers, institutions and microbusinesses, and witnessed at first hand the development of local enterprise and realisation of potential. Through retailing small, clean energy products and developing micro-grids, the social enterprise has mainstreamed gender considerations into its business practice. In Les Anglais, it has prioritized reaching out to women for training as clean energy and micro-grid entrepreneurs, as customers, and employees, with women as promoters of the grid (“ambassadors”) who play a key role in reaching out to other women and energy vendors.
Haiti’s critically low level of access to electricity (around 10% of rural areas) seriously hampers growth and poverty reduction endeavours. By aiming to build an additional 20 mini-grids in off-grid communities in 3 years, Enèji Pwòp expects to directly serve approximately 35,000 additional people through approximately 6000 new grid connections. The project is learning by doing in a difficult environment successfully experimenting with smart meters, cloud based customer management and billing systems, and innovative cost reduction strategies. Truly impressive work from a talented and committed team.
Keep up the great work!
By Ash Sharma