by Alex Fisher
EarthSpark frequently talks about its goal of building 80 community microgrids in Haiti in the next 5 years, but what does it take to actually get those grids built? Critical elements of a microgrid development plan: knowing where those grids should go, what they should look like, and who the local champions will be. Other than hearsay and satellite imagery, however, there was very little credible data upon which to base such a plan in Haiti. EarthSpark’s recent undertaking – a national microgrid market study for Haiti – has illuminated the details of demand for electrification in rural Haitian towns.
The study sample targeted towns with no or limited grid access. With the list of towns finalized, the surveys were designed with input from anthropologists, microgrid consultants, and energy policy advisors with a background in the Haitian cultural and energy contexts and focused upon the following research parameters:
· Energy demand / energy expenditures
· Private generation and appliance ownership
· Current political situation
· Strength of community organizations
· Town infrastructure and ease of accessibility (police station, bank, wire transfer services, roads, ports, etc.)
· Economic drivers and market activity
· Key crops
· Geographic distribution of buildings, town size / density
· NGO and Diaspora presence
The field research team consisted of 20 teams of two researchers, hailing mostly from Haiti, Canada, and the US. Thanks to partnerships with three local universities, Université Quisqueya, Université d’Etat d’Haïti, and Enstiti Travay Sosyal ak Syans Sosyal, 30 Masters level Haitian students were recommended by the deans of their respective universities for research positions.
EarthSpark partnered with the Haitian Energy Institute, which was instrumental in managing logistics of the site visits and on-the-ground interviews. The partners ran a weeklong training session, or “microgrid bootcamp,” in Les Anglais, Haiti, home to EarthSpark’s first microgrid. The training included a multi-disciplinary curriculum on electricity, solar generation, survey methodology, and practice interviews.
Each research team used two Android tablets to undertake surveys of businesses, households, community leaders, and politicians. Based on their interviews and observations, each team delivered qualitative and quantitative reports for each town. The survey questionnaires were uploaded using Open Data Kit software, to ease the collection and maintenance of data.
Based on the survey information and geospatial analysis, towns were ranked based on their suitability as sites for solar microgrids. Rankings were based on scores in four categories: business energy demand, overall energy demand and fuel use, economic potential, and accessibility. Figure 3 below illustrates the town rankings, with larger circles in green representing the towns with the highest potential score for microgrid suitability (and smaller, red circles representing towns with the lowest score). The map in Figure 4 illustrates the towns with the highest business energy expenditures, while the map in Figure 6 represents the towns with the highest estimated overall energy expenditures. These results will help to inform the future of off-grid electrification in the country.
Additionally, write-ups for each town based on all of the survey and mapping data were compiled as part of the final report for the study. Individual maps for each town, assessing the number of potential connections, the density of buildings, and the density of energy demand have been put together, where the relevant information is available. In Figure 6 below is an energy density demand map of Acul du Nord, and a building density map is shown in Figure 7.
With this information in hand, EarthSpark and Enèji Pwòp are ever closer to reaching the goal of building 80 microgrids across Haiti. A public version of the report is forthcoming.
Beyond Haiti, EarthSpark is now well positioned to leverage its research methodology and survey experience to undertake or facilitate similar market studies in other countries seeking visibility into microgrid development potential.