Green Solutions to Haiti's Energy Challenges (Rebroadcast)
MR. KOJO NNAMDI
Even before the earthquake, Haiti was a country with an energy problem. Only one in four Haitians had access to electricity, and only one in seven had legal access to the country's electrical grid. Instead, Haitians met their energy needs by cutting down trees and relying on charcoal, a vicious cycle pushing native forests beyond the brink of collapse. Today, 98 percent of Haiti's tree canopy has been deforested.
MR. KOJO NNAMDI
Now, as Haiti begins to ponder its future, some hope it can begin to address its energy needs in a more sustainable way. Joining me to discuss this is Rene Jean-Jumeau. He is senior advisor for energy and coordinator of the Energy Sector Management Unit at the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications with the government of Haiti. Rene Jean-Jumeau, thank you for joining us.
MR. RENE JEAN-JUMEAU
Hi, Kojo. Thanks for having me.
And joining us from studios at WAMU 88.5 in Washington is Allison Archambault, president of EarthSpark International, an NGO working to eradicate energy poverty around the world. Allison, thank you for joining us.
MS. ALLISON ARCHAMBAULT
Thank you, Kojo.
Rene, let me start with you. We are broadcasting from the studios of Radio Metropole, studios that look a lot like the studios of WAMU 88.5 in Washington. It's wired to the electricity grid. It has backup generators. In short, it's probably about as far away from the normal experience in Haiti as you can get. Haiti has one of the lowest demands for electricity per capita in the entire world. Give us a sense of how the typical Haitian gets power.
Well, Kojo, the actual numbers are -- the electricity access in Haiti is about 20 percent or, depending on what numbers you look at, maybe up to 30 percent. That means that there are 70 percent of Haitians that do not have access to electrical power. So the typical Haitian will live without direct access, will use the kerosene lamps or other forms of basic lighting at night, will use batteries for a radio, a small radio and for access to communication, and then will use -- for cooking, will use mostly wood or charcoal for cooking. So that's...
It's been 10 months since the earthquake. How would you assess the power infrastructure in the country right now?
I'd say it's about 70 to 75 percent back up to where it was pre-earthquake. So that still means, considering that the access -- the level of access is very low. It still means that most people are going without electricity now. That also means that, as in with the pre-earthquake situation, the -- that most people would go -- will go, if they have access to electricity, from the normal power grid, they will go 6 to 8, sometimes up to 12 hours per day with electricity and then without most of the time.
You can join this conversation by calling 800-433-8850. Do you have any questions about technology in Haiti? Do you think that Haiti can have a green future and that's important? 800-433-8850. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org, ask a question, make a comment there. Send us an e-mail to email@example.com or a tweet, @kojoshow. Allison Archambault, in the 10 months since the earthquake, much of the focus has been around rebuilding the existing grid. But you say that will only get a country like Haiti so far. In fact, a lot of people are talking about solutions off the grid. What does that mean?
That's exactly right, Kojo. Just as Rene just said, 70 percent of the people had zero access to electricity even before the earthquake, and those numbers have decreased since the earthquake in January. So getting the grid back to pre-earthquake measures is an emergency. It's absolutely necessary. It's also not enough. With 70 percent of the population not having any access to that grid, and with that grid only being up and available at best half of the time, there need to be some other approaches as well.
So as that work continues, which is incredibly important work, there are big opportunities for relatively small investments that have high impact that can work in the rural areas. And examples of those are clean energy stores that sell very small-scale, efficient, clean energy technologies, like efficient cook stoves, small-scale solar systems and also microgrids that can serve small town centers in a reliable way and be something that can be parallel pathed as people look at getting the big grid back up and expanded.
Again, you can call us at 800-433-8850 if you'd like to join the conversation. Does Haiti have a greener future? What link do you see between energy consumption and development? 800-433-8850. We're talking with Allison Archambault. She is president of EarthSpark International, an NGO working to eradicate energy poverty around the world. She joins us from the studios of WAMU 88.5 in Washington. Joining us in studios in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is Rene Jean-Jumeau, senior advisor for energy and coordinator of the Energy Sector Management Unit, UGSE at the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications with the government of Haiti. Allison, we actually spoke with social entrepreneur Jean Fritz Fednard. His family manufactures energy-efficient stoves. Here's a little bit of that.
MR. JEAN FRITZ FEDNARD
(Through Translator) In Haiti, the use of wood is a huge danger to the environment. Each time it rains, the water devastates all the land. We can't reduce completely the use of wood, but we're trying to get people to stop cutting 50 percent of the time. Because when you keep cutting and not replanting, you eventually don't have anything left. It's necessary and important for us to do something to help. There are lots of things you can do, but we chose this project. In 10 to 15 years, I see a much better, greener, Haiti.
That, a conversation with Jean Fritz Fednard. His family manufactures energy-efficient stoves. It's my understanding, Allison, that EarthSpark actually sells some of those stoves.
Yes. Our partner, the Clean Energy Store in Les Anglais, in the tip of the southern peninsula -- we've opened a clean energy store, Magazen Eneji Pwop, that sells efficient and alternative fuel-cook stoves and, again, those small-scale solar products. And Jean Fritz, with D&E Enterprises, has one of the leading stoves in the country. We sell his stove, and we sell a miracle stove, which is a smaller, even lower-tech stove. And they're incredibly high-impact. If, as he said, we can reduce the consumption of charcoal by 50 percent, then we're really doing an immediate benefit to the supply and the demand on the wood stocks in the country. And...
For our listeners...
...we have incredible paybacks. Jean Fritz's stove retails for about $10 in our store. And the miracle stove, which is the even lower-tech version, retails for about $3.50. And what we found is that people haven't been adopting these technologies that save them money for a variety of reasons. Mostly, it's the upfront capital. The -- even the $3.50 stove, it costs $1 more than the traditional stove. And so that $1 difference -- even though there's a payback of about 4 days -- is not being adopted widely in rural Haiti.
And so we're addressing that by launching a rent-to-own program. People can essentially try the stoves out. The barrier to entry then is very much reduced. They can have confidence in the stove, and they end up paying for the stoves out of their savings. So from day one they're saving money and reducing their impact on the environment.
We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation about solutions to Haiti's energy challenges. We're broadcasting live from Radio Metropole in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. You can still call us at 800-433-8850 with your questions or comments. If you have already called, stay on the line. We will get to your call. But you can also send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our website kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Welcome back. We're live in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, talking about green solutions to Haiti's energy challenges with Allison Archambault, president of EarthSpark International, which is working to eradicate energy poverty around the world. She joins us from the studios of WAMU 88.5 in Washington. Joining us in studios in Port-au-Prince is Rene Jean-Jumeau, senior advisor for energy and coordinator of the Energy Sector Management Unit, UGSE, at the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications with the government of Haiti. We now go immediately to the telephones. Here is Suma in Bowie, Md. Suma, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
Yes. Thank you, Kojo Nnamdi. Based on the strategic location of Haiti, I would assume Haiti should be able to take advantage of wind energy and also maritime communications, since they are right, more or less, on an island. They have a lot of ship patrolling around that area that definitely can be a way they can set up a central communication location to connect ships that are within that particular zone. And the other question I have, which is very important, we all know, based on the knowledge we have about the history of Haiti, there is stronger moral obligation of the French people who, in my own opinion, are responsible for digging the economy grave that Haiti is trying to (word?) itself out of.
What is it that they are doing? Are there any strong relief agencies from France? There are any investment from the French government? You know, is there a way that the -- a movement can be set to put that moral question to them so that generations, yet (word?) France should begin to realize that, based on the history, they have a moral obligation to do something about the state of affairs in Haiti?
Allow me to have Rene Jean-Jumeau address the first part of your question, the alternative of wind-powered energy.
Thanks, Kojo. We are looking at wind energy because of the simple fact that the actual resources that we have in Haiti are the natural resources like wind, the sun, some hydropower. So, yes, we definitely need to look at that, not because they are renewable and they are green -- not just because of that -- but also because those are the resources that we have in Haiti. Also, the point that was made about the moral obligation...
Well, we should remind our listeners that Haiti has been independent from France for some 206 years but had a very heavy debt that it owed to France, which was paid off in the, I think, middle of the 20th century. That was paid off, but our caller still feels that France has a moral obligation here.
Yes. Haiti was -- became independent in 1804 from the French government. Now, obviously, if we're counting on that, we'll be waiting a long time. Now, let's not forget that it's not -- it wasn't just the French that dug this economic grave for Haiti. After Haitian independence in 1804, 13 U.S. presidents refused to recognize the independence of Haiti. So it wasn't until Abraham Lincoln, who actually recognized the independence of Haiti -- so starting from Thomas Jefferson down, 13 U.S. presidents refused to recognize it.
So that means that there was absolutely no economic exchanges allowed, and obviously, slavery -- the struggle to overcome slavery was not very popular in the U.S. back then. So we have to look at -- today, at what we can do for ourselves and not necessarily hope that just because they feel sorry for us that other countries are going to do something for us.
Suma, thank you very much for your call. We move on now to Vin in Chantilly, Va. Vin, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
Yeah, I had just a comment to make on the energy situation in Haiti. I think that, given the current scenario in which there are tens and thousands of people possibly -- I don't know the exact numbers at all, but we know that there's a large number of people that are spread out in camps and tents and whatever -- makeshift shelters. I think that agencies that have the money or resources or the inclination to build or help build in the -- in developing the Haitian society should invest in building community anaerobic digesters that can process not just cattle but also human waste.
And, therefore, while this may generate energy not necessarily large scale, but maybe in terms of, you know, providing some kind of relief from an energy standpoint to small segments of habitats like, you know, the shelters, et cetera, more importantly, it may also contribute towards mitigating the spread of disease because anaerobic digestion processes are known to kill quite a bit of bacterial species that could be harmful to the physiology.
Rene Jean-Jumeau, what do you think about that?
That's a very good point. Anaerobic digesters are being explored right now in Haiti. There are some places -- specifically in the areas where there are these tent cities -- that are utilizing that and trying to develop that. So I think we need to look at that. However, in the rural areas where the population is more dispersed, it's less effective and a little harder to do. However, I think that's a very good point. I know it has...
And I have...
...been successful in places like India and Pakistan, so I think we should look at that.
Yes. That's true.
And I just wanted to add real quick, Kojo, that I happen to have background and experience in this, so -- I mean, I'll be glad to do my two cents worth help in any way possible.
Thank you very much for that offer, and I'm sure there are several people here in the government. You can contact Rene Jean-Jumeau. How can you be contacted, Rene?
I can be contacted via e-mail, email@example.com. That's R-E-N-E-J-J@i...
Could you repeat that, please? Because I'm on the phone -- on the road.
Could you repeat it, please?
Thank you very much for your call, Vin. Allison Archambault, EarthSpark International operates a clean energy store in a town called Les Anglais on the Southwestern coast. You sell green energy products, and you also try to make them available to local businesses. Please explain.
Yeah, sure. Thanks. We work with a local partner who actually owns and operates the store. It's The Clean Energy Store, and it now has just celebrated its fourth month of operation. We were held up a little bit in opening the store because of the earthquake, but we sell clean and efficient energy technologies that generally are on a very small scale. So we sell, as I discussed earlier, efficient and alternative fuel cook stoves. We sell very small-scale solar products that range from a solar desk lamp that essentially pays for itself in about 75 days.
People will spend about 10 cents on kerosene per lamp, and, of course, the kerosene lamp can fall over. We just had an unfortunate case of a house burning down in our small town. Because of the lamp, kids get burned frequently. The indoor air quality issue is a health problem. And the quality of the light doesn't compare to our efficient, little, solar-powered LED desk lamps. So people -- everything we sell at The Clean Energy Store is designed to benefit the consumer by saving them money, benefit the environment by cutting down on resource consumption and to benefit the community by creating jobs and being sort of a center of excellence for energy thinking and energy technology.
This also helps the businesses and the homes in Les Anglais because -- just one quick example of a woman who cooks at a market with a traditional stove, spends about $1 a day on charcoal. And with that miracle stove that cost $3.50, she can save 25 cents per day on charcoal. And as I said, the miracle stove is $1 more expensive than the traditional stove. So it's a four-day payback period, and after that four days, she is just earning 25 cents. And she only makes a dollar or two a day anyway. So in terms of helping very small scale businesses, any energy savings are actually incredibly important for their bottom line.
And, Allison, the question that Vin raised earlier about regarding human waste and agricultural waste, turning them into energy, can you address that?
Yeah, sure. One thing that I haven't talked about for The Clean Energy Store is that we also sell manufacturing equipment that turns agricultural waste into an alternative to charcoal. The way charcoal's made, for those who don't know, is generally you cut down trees. And then you pile them up in the sun, dry them out, and then you set them afire and then cover them with dirt so that the oxygen is consumed. You can actually do that same process without cutting down trees, but by using agricultural wastes, like coconut husks or corn cobs or sugarcane waste.
And so that's one way to further reduce the strain on the forest, is by not only reducing the consumption of charcoal but then converting the charcoal that is used from tree-based charcoal to agricultural-based charcoal. And in terms of the sanitation -- to address that specifically -- that is a good idea. I've seen places -- a lot of places that are actually just addressing that, not by creating energy but by creating compost.
On now to the phones again. Here is Gene in Silver Spring, Md. Gene, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
Yeah, thank you, Kojo. My question is with the tremendous amount of financial assistance received by Haiti after the earthquake, is there any foreseeable future for the rundown energy grate to be fixed in that country?
Well, let's start with the tremendous amount of financial aid that we've received. I think, right now, we've probably received maybe 1 percent, if at all, of what was promised. Now, we have to be careful about this kind of perception. Usually, in these big drawn-out sessions of pledges, there is a political posturing, and these countries make big pledges. But then they use a number of excuses not to follow through, so that usually maybe 50 percent, if we're lucky, follow through with the promised pledges. The second stage is, everything that's going to be donated, there is a list of conditions. And these lists can range from 10 to 15 to 20 different conditions and points, and it takes -- sometimes it takes up to two years to actually meet all those conditions.
So this amount of financing that we're talking about, Haiti may never see that. I'm being very frank on this point. Now, the rundown grid -- yes, as I said before, just trying to get back to pre-earthquake situation, we've gotten up to 70, 75 percent backup. However, what we need is to rehabilitate the grid almost altogether because the last major rehabilitation was from the mid-'80s. So that means that we are 25 -- almost 30 years ago. So, yes, that needs to be done, and it is going to be part of the effort, that if any of this financial aid actually gets to us, yes, that's one of the major things in terms of the energy infrastructure that needs to be done.
Rene Jean-Jumeau, senior advisor for energy and coordinator of the Energy Sector Management Unit at the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications with the government of Haiti. Rene, thank you very much for joining us.
Thank you, Kojo.
Allison Archambault is president of EarthSpark International, which is working to eradicate energy poverty around the world. Allison, thank you for joining us.
Thank you, Kojo.
And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.