IDB Approves Grants for Northern Industrial Park, Energy Modernization

By Bryan Schaaf on Wednesday, July 27, 2011.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recently announced the approval of two grants for Haiti totaling US $90 million.  One grant is devoted to the development of an industrial park between Ounaminthe and Cap Haitian while the other is devoted to modernizing Haiti's energy sector.  This is worth noting as investment outside of Port au Prince is unfortunately still rare.  The IDP's support for the energy sector will allow for upgrading the Peligre Hydroelectric Dam and promotion of solar energy projects.


The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced the approval of two grants totaling US$90 million for Haiti to help finance the construction of an industrial park in its northern region and to support the government's efforts to modernize its energy sector.  A US$55 million IDB grant will support the first phase of development of the Northern Industrial Park (NIP), which will have capacity for some 50,000 workers.  The facility will be owned by the Haitian state, which has another manufacturing park in Port-au-Prince.  The NIP will be located on a 250-hectare site near the town of Caracol, between the cities of Cap Haitien and Ouanaminthe.  IDB resources will finance several investments within the perimeter of the park, such as factory buildings, internal roads, water storage tanks and waste water treatment plants.  'The U.S. government will support the NIP project by building a power plant to supply electricity to the industrial park and to surrounding communities, as well as by investing in housing for factory workers and their families and improvements to port facilities in Cap Haitien," a statement from the IDB said.


The project will be carried out by a technical execution unit of Haiti's Ministry of Economy and Finance that successfully completed more than 50 basic infrastructure projects under a previous IDB-financed operation.  Construction inside the NIP's perimeter could start later this summer and the first phase could be finished by the first quarter of 2012.  In partnership with the U.S. Department of State, the IDB has been helping Haiti attract tenants to the new park.  One of them, South Korean textile manufacturer Sae-A, expects to hire as many as 20,000 workers and build the country's first textile mill.  "Tenants seeking to use U.S. trade preferences for Haiti-based manufacturers will have to abide by local laws and international best practices regarding labor conditions.  The NIP is also likely to generate tens of thousands of additional jobs in activities such as transportation, shipping and food services," the IDB said. "The NIP will be the keystone of a broader regional development plan featuring investments to boost agricultural production, develop value chains involving local small and medium-size enterprises and promote tourism based on northern Haiti's cultural attractions." A US$35 million IDB grant will support Haiti's efforts to modernize its energy sector and improve the financial and operational management of the state power company, Eléctricité d'Haïti (EDH).  This is the first of three policy-based operations the IDB expects to make over three years to help Haiti develop a reliable and sustainable electricity system.


At present, about 70 percent of Haiti's population has no access to electricity.  In areas with coverage, service averages 10 hours a day but is plagued by outages.  Available generation capacity stands at less than one-third of the estimated 500 megawatt demand.  In coordination with other international donors, the IDB has provided Haiti grant resources to repair electricity infrastructure affected by the 2010 earthquake.  The Bank is also supporting the rehabilitation of the Péligre hydroelectric plant, the use of solar energy and EDH's efforts to reduce technical and commercial losses by upgrading its equipment and boosting billing and collection efficiency. "The policy-based grants will assist the Haitian government in carrying out a broad reform programme aimed at expanding access to energy for urban and rural households, reducing the country's reliance on fossil fuels for power generation, improving the reliability of electricity services and transforming EDH into a viable utility. Another goal is to encourage more households to switch to liquefied petroleum gas from charcoal, the most commonly used cooking fuel in Haiti," the IDB said. It added that, combined with public and private investments, these reforms will enable Haiti to establish a robust regulatory and institutional framework to promote the expansion of its energy sector. 

Can Haiti Chart a Better Energy Future? (4/18/2013)

Scientific American
By Lisa Friedman and ClimateWire
CANAPÉ VERTE, Haiti -- Robert Naylor walks the perimeter of an electricity substation high above the earthquake-battered capital of Port-au-Prince, pointing out new batteries, switches and transformers that his construction company, Perini Management Corp., installed here as part of a $12.7 million U.S. Agency for International Development project to strengthen Haiti's energy infrastructure. This substation and others were damaged in the 2010 quake, and the United States is investing in repairs to the transmission and distribution systems as well as the installation of new equipment and worker training. But below the substation's chain-link fence, a jumble of cut and spliced wires snake from the overhead power line toward a cluster of makeshift shacks. Naylor points to the creative electricity connection undermining his company's hard work and shakes his head. A few winding streets below, 26-year-old Forestal Chamblin walks past the patchwork of corrugated metal and fraying tarp structures at the "ENAF2" camp city, which he and about 300 families who were displaced in the 2010 earthquake still call home. "Yes, we take. We take it secretly," Chamblin says, shrugging, as he glances up at dangling wires. Tall and wiry himself in jeans and a white T-shirt, Chamblin leans against one of three 1,000-gallon water tanks that were filled regularly in the months after the earthquake but that, residents say, have been empty now for a year. Getting a legal electricity connection is out of the question for residents of ENAF2, he says. "There are no jobs for us, so we cannot pay."
More than three years after Haiti suffered the worst natural disaster in its history, its recovery has been excruciatingly slow. Still, people here say, there is more progress than first meets the eye: new roads, schools and even a state-of-the-art teaching hospital about a half-hour away from Port-au-Prince.
In energy, there are a few signs of light as well: a new USAID-funded industrial park on the country's north coast aimed at electrifying 1,800 households, as well as steady improvements to substations like the one at Canapé Verte; solar-powered street lights in the capital; and the presidential appointment of a widely acclaimed Cornell University-educated electrical engineer as the country's new minister delegate for energy security. Slower going, experts say, is breaking the vicious cycle of antiquated transmission networks, theft, corruption and poor maintenance crippling Haiti's power sector.
A snarl of good and bad intentions Exhibit A: circuit breakers. Speaking inside a mobile trailer atop the substation, Naylor says one of the things he found when he started the project was a jumble of unmatching equipment from various governments that had provided aid in the past. With nearly no regulation from the Haitian government, he notes, there was little to stop each donor nation from insisting that its own companies provide parts. The result was outdated and almost unfixable switch gears and circuit breakers from Canada, France and several other countries. "Unfortunately, when you take donated items, you take what you can get. But when one thing breaks and there's no specs and there never has been any ... well, now these poor people need 10 circuit breakers because every one is different. So instead of things being solved, they just put a Band-Aid on it," he says.
His job, Naylor says, includes a redesign that has redundancy built into the system -- basically, duplicated spare parts -- so that Haitian workers can maintain and repair it. The costs are comparable, he says, and the system is sustainable long-term. But then there's the theft. "Most people don't have a job and can't pay for power, so a lot of power in Haiti is stolen," he explains. Analysts say it's almost impossible to tease out where the problems begin, but a big one is that the average business in Port-au-Prince can't and won't depend on the state for power. Take Patrick Attie, co-founder and dean of an information technology institute, the Ecole Supérieure d'Infotronique d'Haïti. Attie says he needs stable electricity to run his school's 10 computer labs serving about 850 students. But if he relied on the state Electricity of Haiti company (EDH), Attie says, "we would be dead. We would be closed already." Diesel and charcoal trump renewable energy "It's very irregular, and we have no plan about when the electricity is going to be turned on and turned off. You never know when you're going to have it or not have it. You have to have your own infrastructure," Attie says. So he says he budgets an extra $40,000 to $50,000 each year to fuel a 200-kilowatt diesel generator, and paid for $20,000 worth of solar panels, inverters and batteries that keep one of his servers running. "The ideal solution would be solar panels or wind energy, but it's still very expensive," Attie says. For now, while burning diesel is dirty and expensive, "we can't live without it. There is no question about that."
With businesses and manufacturing -- the very operations that use the most power and are best equipped to pay for it -- relying on private generators, EDH winds up asking homeowners to carry the bag, energy officials say. Consumers in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with a per-capita income of $400, pay as much as 34 cents per kilowatt-hour. To put that in perspective, the average homeowner in Washington, D.C. -- where the average per-capita income is $70,000 -- pays about 12 cents per kWH, according to the Department of Labor. The result: People don't pay. Like Chamblin and others throughout the city, they devise illegal connections to fit their meager cooking and lighting needs. Haitian officials say EDH suffers $150 million annually in unpaid bills. Mired in more losses, EDH doesn't perform upgrades or invest in new capacity -- lowering even further the chances that private investors will take an interest in putting money toward Haiti's energy systems.
But Port-au-Prince's power chaos means steady business for people like Yves Brezeau, who lives by the side of the road near the southwest city of Les Cayes. He goes up into the hillside regularly to cut down trees and char the wood. He earns 250 Haitian gourdes (about $5) for every overflowing burlap sack of charcoal he fills to be trucked to energy-starved city dwellers. "My cousin takes it all to Port-au-Prince," Brezeau says, showing off the charred sticks. He, like many of his neighbors in rural areas with no electricity access at all, prefers to use cheaper wood, coal and kerosene for his own cooking and lighting.
Gene-Rene Vaceus, a driver for the United Nations who returned to his native Haiti from New York a few years ago to retire, drives past the barren hills and says the verdant country of his youth is long gone. "In the '60s and '70s, this was all forest. When I was a kid, it was complete forest," he says. Jutting his chin out the window at more burlap sacks of charcoal leaning against trees like tired men waiting at a bus stop, he says, "See that bag? If I were to go to Port-au-Prince with that bag, I could get 400 gourdes" (about $9). The bare mountains terrify Marie-Louise Augustin Russo, executive director of the Disaster Management Alliance and Business Continuity Committee in Port-au-Prince. She works with companies in Haiti to prepare for floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. He's particularly worried about the denuded hills surrounding the northern port city of Cap-Haitien, where the combination of deforested hillsides, inadequate drainage and substandard housing literally condemns the area to furious flooding. More than 10 people died in November after stormwaters crashed through the impoverished area. Were an earthquake to rock Cap Haitien followed by a tsunami, Russo says, she doubts the city will survive. "The houses are poorly made, and the streets are narrow. If the houses ever collapse, people will not be able to run for their lives. They will be stuck. And it's all exacerbated by the fact that there are no trees," she says. Sometimes, she says, when driving past bare mountains, "I say to myself, 'Oh, my God, all these trees, they went to Port-au-Prince for charcoal.'"
The Haitian government is slowly trying to untangle the threads of the country's interwoven climate change and energy problems. EDH has announced work on new transformers and is installing about 40,000 meters that can be read remotely in an effort to curb theft. But critics say change isn't happening fast enough. Energy Minister Rene Jean-Jumeau says his country badly needs a clear energy policy to drive private investment but acknowledges that bureaucratic inertia and uninterest seem to be winning the day. "We've been working on it for 10, 15 years, and it's never been published," he says. "Not understanding the importance of it is one of the reasons that what may seem obvious for other countries is, for some reason, not obvious here." And to the frustration of many who work in Haiti's energy sector, an anti-electricity theft bill that has been in the works for two years was recently resubmitted, ensuring even greater delays. "Things move incredibly slowly here," says Mark Konold, a project manager for the Worldwatch Institute's climate change and energy program. Fresh off meetings in Haiti to discuss potential renewable energy plans with the government, state electricity company and other players in the country's energy market, Konold calls the lack of political will in the Haitian government to tackle the hardest problems like theft disheartening. "Generation is a problem, but it's not the only problem. I personally think the larger problems are things like collection and theft, and the grid not being extensive enough or strong enough," he says. "There really needs to be a very firm signal from the president."
But Naylor, who worked in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake, saw the pride of Haitians in the aftermath helping one another because the government could not. He says he remains hopeful that Port-au-Prince at least will see full energy access in the near future. Taking apart the problem piece by piece, he says, is the key. "Commercial customers don't buy power from EDH because it's not reliable. If Haiti's grid could become stable, customers like the manufacturers would be willing to tie in, and you'd have a revenue stream that will reduce costs." But, he says, "To build a sustainable grid you need to generate revenue, but you can't bring people out of poverty overnight. Nobody is ever going to come into Haiti and solve all the problems, but you take a piece."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500

Haiti Seeks to Rebuild or Just Build its Power Grid (2/28/12)

Associated Press
By Trenton Daniel
BOUCAN CARRE, Haiti — Sometimes it seems as though the people here have only the sun and moon: the blinding sun that bakes their mud homes and moonlight that with flickering gas lamps fights against the dark of night. Electricity arrived just three months ago in this mountain village, and it's gone as often as it's on. With no power, there is no industry, just tiny farms and grinding hunger. Now that will be changing, with the help of that sun. A Haitian aid agency has just installed 63 solar panels that will power the pumps of a fish hatchery it hopes will give jobs to 100 people after it formally opens next month. Boucan Carre is among dozens of projects across Haiti where the government and development agencies are using some of the $4.5 billion in earthquake aid to solve one of the bottlenecks that kept Haiti in poverty long before the shattering earthquake of January 2010: a critical lack of electricity of any sort, whether from hydro plants, solar cells or oil-fired generators.
Only a quarter of Haiti's 10 million people have regular access to electricity and spotty supply hampers businesses and scares away foreign investors. The scarcity touches just about every aspect of Haitian life. Students read by candlelight. Haiti's wealthy power their homes with rumbling generators, a costly ordeal because fuel fetches $5 a gallon in a country where 80 percent of the population makes less than $2 a day. President Michel Martelly's administration hopes to double the number of rural homes with access to power by helping villagers acquire solar-power systems, reforming the state power company and refurbishing the country's largest energy generator. In all, some $260 million has been earmarked for energy projects so far. "If we properly tackle the energy problem we will infuse a dynamic into the whole development process of Haiti," said Rene Jean-Jumeau, who oversees the government's energy department. The absence of electricity is "the biggest thing that's impeding development." Boucan Carre's 6,000 people live along a river named Fonlanfe — roughly "deep as hell" — that surges in the rainy season and that aid workers are using to supply the fish farm, which will need a steady supply of power. "It has to be reliable because you need electricity 24 hours a day," said Valentin Abe of the Caribbean Harvest Foundation, the Haitian nonprofit that is donating the fish. The Washington-based Solar Electric Light Fund received a $500,000 grant from the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund for the hatchery.
The solar panels and batteries power pumps that pull water from a river and add oxygen to six, 12,000-gallon tanks filled with baby fish. The extra oxygen raises the yield of fish from 2,000 a month to 20,000. The fish are then given to the farmers who raise them at a nearby lake. Valentin hopes that people who now live on less than a dollar a day working at small farm plots will have annual profits of $2,000 each, in addition to a source of protein-rich meals. Elsewhere, the government working with banks to award more than $30 million in low-interest loans so that 200,000 families can buy portable solar-power kits. The biggest target is Haiti's decrepit electric company, which eats up $100 million a year in official subsidies, 12 percent of the government's budget. It hasn't been able to crack down on Haitians who just steal power by tapping illegally into the grid, and cannot provide steady power to any of its customers, even in the capital. In Port-au-Prince, a team of carpenters build bed frames, doors and coffins, all by hand, in the shade of a tarp strung among tree trunks. One of them, 55-year-old Francis Pierre, longs to use his power tools but says there is seldom electricity. "We would be able to make more, produce more," he said. Haitian officials turned to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which awarded a contract to a private utility operator, Tetra Tech Inc. of Pasadena, California, to manage the electric company for two years. USAID is also repairing five substations in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and is studying the possibility of using solar panels for an industrial park in the north.
One of the biggest projects is the Inter-American Development Bank's $48.8-million plan to refurbish Haiti's Peligre hydroelectric plant, the country's largest energy producer. It now operates at less than half its original capacity of 54 megawatts because its reservoir hasn't been properly maintained. The cell phone company Digicel, Haiti's largest employer, has built about 180 solar-powered lamps in the countryside and hopes to add 1,000 more by next year. Each light features an outlet for charging mobile phones. Boston-based Partners in Health has installed solar panels in the hospitals it runs with the Health Ministry, and plans to build more with the Solar Electric Light Fund. "If we would go three hours without electricity and the refrigerator doesn't work, there's a risk we'll lose our supply of medication," said Raymond Abraham, a 30-year-old pharmacist in training at the Boucan Carre hospital, which is powered with solar panels on the roof. "The best solution to resolve the blackout situation is solar energy." In Port-au-Prince, solar lamps illuminate a winding thoroughfare that takes motorists to the mountains above the capital as well as the settlement camps that sprung up after the earthquake. But solar energy panels are expensive and the equipment is not always easy to repair. Replacement parts often are not available in Haiti. Energy development "needs to be locally controlled and not a dumping of technology from abroad," said Joel Kupferman, executive director of the Environmental Justice Initiative for Haiti.

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