With generous funding from the US Trade and Development Agency and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, EarthSpark International, Energy and Security Group, and The Haiti Energy Institute recently completed a countrywide market study of the potential for town-sized, solar-powered microgrids across Haiti. The study was conducted for EarthSpark’s Haitian social enterprise spin-off, Enèji Pwòp, S.A. in order to facilitate a fundable plan for microgrid development. Following a desk study of un-electrified Haitian towns, field research was undertaken in 89 rural towns from July-October of 2015.
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.
An in-house geospatial analysis of each of the towns was undertaken to determine the following: estimate of potential connections, building density, and flood risk. GIS tools used for the study were Google EarthEngine API and QGIS. This project also included a desk study of relevant laws, regulations and decrees relevant to micro-grid development and operation in Haiti, outlining opportunities and challenges.
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.
Here we feature an excerpt from the Rocky Mountain Institute's recent blog "Changing Lives with Solar Microgrids". Read the full article here.
EarthSpark began working in Haiti providing people with small solar home systems and solar lanterns, products that are life-changing tools for people without access to grid electricity. But the organization soon realized that those aren’t the solutions to which everyone aspires. “To truly unlock economic opportunity, people need access to higher levels of electricity than what a solar home system can provide,” Allison Archambault, president of EarthSpark International, told RMI.
“With the right conditions minigrids can provide energy services in a low-cost sweet spot between small levels of energy consumption that can be effectively served by small stand-alone solar systems and traditional grid extension,” according to Eric Wanless, a principal in RMI’s international practice leading the Sustainable Energy for Economic Development initiative. EarthSpark isn’t the only group focusing on microgrids. Husk Power has brought electricity to 200,000 people in the highly unelectrified state of Bihar in India, using rice husks to fuel microgrids; Powerhive, Devergy, and PowerGen are bringing power to East Africa with solar microgrids; and Gham Power is building solar microgrids in rural Nepal.
A microgrid can give residences and businesses enough power to run motors, process agricultural products, and power freezers. Plus, much of the electricity used by rural industry is seasonal, such as an agricultural mill, which is used during harvest season and on market days. “Building an energy system just for that mill would mean an asset that is under-utilized much of the time,” adds Archambault. “But with a microgrid, you can use that capacity for other uses, and everyone buys down the cost for everyone else. We like to say our system is powerful enough to energize industry, and progressive enough to serve every single customer.”
Read the full article on RMI's blog here.
Scaling Sustainable Energy for All: EarthSpark International and the Case for Micro-grid Infrastructure
By Allison Archambault
Globally, the electricity sector is changing. Two megatrends underlie the necessity of the transition: Climate Change and Energy Access. Worldwide 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity and instead spend large amounts of money on low quality energy services such as kerosene, candles and charcoal. Each year, 4 million people die due to indoor air pollution from these inefficient sources of energy and countless more remain locked in poverty.
Ironically, important innovation in decarbonizing the global energy supply may come from remote villages that have not yet seen electricity. Where there is no incumbent infrastructure, there is an opportunity to build energy systems with today's best technologies and business models. These models that leverage clean energy, storage, smart grid, and customer participation can be adapted and transferred – South to North – to inform the evolving utility business models in established markets.
Smart Meters, Scalable Solutions
Building infrastructure from scratch – where no incumbent exists – means it is possible to leapfrog directly to today’s best technologies and business models, but best practices in smart grid, tariff structures, and grid resiliency have not yet been clearly defined for the ‘energy access’ markets. Enter EarthSpark. When no low-cost, high-functionality smart meters existed on the market for EarthSpark’s inaugural grid in 2012, EarthSpark developed prototype smart meters to meet its needs. In 2013, EarthSpark spun off the smart metering company SparkMeter, Inc., which is now enabling grid operators to increase energy access and improve operations in 5 countries. EarthSpark drives practical innovation to meet the needs of the rural poor, and EarthSpark is now developing a scalable model for microgrid development and operation. Bundling technical innovation, community engagement, diverse partnerships, and novel financing, EarthSpark is building project-based change and ‘de-risking by doing.’
EarthSpark is a non-profit organization working to expand access to high-quality energy services. EarthSpark's mission: eradicate energy poverty. Our method: do the research and development on business models that can spin off and scale to address specific aspects of energy poverty. So far, we have spun off Enèji Pwòp, S.A., a Haitian social enterprise, and SparkMeter, Inc., a smart meter technology company. We have also built a first-of-its-kind, town-sized, solar-powered, smart grid in rural Haiti.
Working in Haiti since 2009, EarthSpark International has sold over 18,000 small-scale clean energy products ranging from solar lanterns to efficient cookstoves. In 2012, EarthSpark turned on a first-of-its-kind privately operated pre-pay microgrid in Les Anglais, Haiti, a small town that had never before had grid electricity. In 2015, EarthSpark expanded the grid to 430 connections, directly serving over 2000 people with 24-hour electricity powered primarily by solar energy and battery storage, cutting customers’ energy costs by up to 80% over previous energy sources. The community-scale grid is large enough to power small industry while progressive enough to offer accessible service to every single resident living within the infrastructure’s footprint. For those living beyond the grid, EarthSpark continues to support local entrepreneurs in the sale and support of stand-alone solar products.
Unlocking Potential: From One to Eighty Grids
EarthSpark aims to build eighty microgrids in Haiti by the end of 2020. With one grid up and running, EarthSpark has learned much, but to get to 80, several barriers need to be cleared. With local partners, EarthSpark has led a 100-town microgrid market assessment for Haiti and worked at several levels to clarify the Haitian legal and regulatory landscape for microgrid development and operation. Planning is one thing, executing is another, and the ‘process risk’ in microgrid development remains extremely high.
EarthSpark is seeking grant funding to build the next three grids and, in parallel, to build the experience-backed fundable plan for the next 40 grids. EarthSpark’s microgrid development experience to-date has underlined the truth that implementation of a process – the actual building of grids – is by far the best way to de-risk the process for future developments.
Integrated Electrification: Empowering People with more than Watt-Hours
Electricity in and of itself is useless. It’s what one does with each watt-hour that is truly transformative. With highly efficient appliances, productive uses of electricity, and thoughtful demand management, not only can customers make the most of newly available electricity, operators can maximize customer value and grid revenue. EarthSpark works with communities and customers to deeply assess energy service needs and opportunities. EarthSpark also takes a ‘feminist electrification’ approach to infrastructure planning, ensuring that women’s voices and roles are important throughout the planning and implementation of the electrification process.
Microgrids, Community Resilience + Sustainable Energy for All
To meet Sustainable Energy for All goals, 40% of all new connections will come from microgrids. Around the world, local governments are looking to microgrids to harden critical infrastructure and improve resiliency. Innovation is portable, and in building a model for clean, smart, transformative community infrastructure, EarthSpark is pursuing deep solutions to both energy access and climate change. Join us!
Une énergie durable adaptée pour tous: EarthSpark International défend une infrastructure de micro-réseaux
par Allison Archambault, traduit par Daphné Joseph-Gabriel
Mondialement, le secteur énergétique change. Deux tendances majeures sous-tendent cette nécessité d'une transition: le changement climatique et l'accès à l'énergie. De part le monde, 1,2 milliard de personnes n'ont pas accès à l'électricité et, à la place, dépensent de grosse somme d’argent pour des services énergétiques de piètre qualité, tels que le kérosène, les bougies et le charbon de bois. Chaque année 4 millions de personnes succombent aux pollutions intérieures de l'air causées par ces sources inefficaces d'énergie, et un nombre incommensurable reste coincé dans la pauvreté.
Ironiquement, l'impulsion majeure dans l'innovation de la décarbonisation de l'offre énergétique mondiale pourrait venir de villages reculés qui n'ont encore ni vu ni connu l'électricité. Là où il n'y a pas d'infrastructure au préalable, il existe une opportunité de mise en place de systèmes énergétiques qui utilisent les meilleurs modèles économiques et les technologies de pointes. Ces modèles qui mettent à profit une énergie verte, le stockage, les réseaux intelligents, et la participation du client peuvent être adaptés et transférés - du Sud au Nord - pour informer les modèles économiques des services en cours de mutation dans les marchés établis.
Compteurs intelligents, solutions adaptées
Construire une infrastructure ex nihilo - où rien n'existe au préalable - veut dire qu'il est possible de sauter directement aux technologies de pointe et aux meilleurs modèles économiques. Toutefois, les meilleures pratiques des réseaux intelligents, des structurations tarifaires, et de résilience du réseau n'ont pas encore été clairement définies pour les marchés où l'accès énergétique est un défi. C'est là qu'intervient EarthSpark. Lorsqu'aucun compteur intelligent bon marché à haute fonctionnalité n'existait sur le marché pour le réseau inaugural d'EarthSpark en 2012, EarthSpark a développé des compteurs intelligents prototypes pour répondre à ce besoin. En 2013, d'EarthSpark a essaimé l'entreprise de compteurs intelligents SparkMeter, Inc., qui permet désormais aux opérateurs de réseaux d'accroître l'accès à l'énergie et améliorer les opérations dans 5 pays. EarthSpark pousse à ce que l'innovation pragmatique corresponde aux besoins des populations rurales pauvres, et développe maintenant un modèle adaptable pour la mise en route d'un micro-réseau. Regroupant l'innovation technique, la participation communautaire, des partenariats divers, et un financement novateur, EarthSpark est en train de construire un changement projet par projet, et se faisant réduit considérablement le risque.
EarthSpark est une organisation à but non lucratif qui œuvre pour étendre l'accès aux services énergétiques de haute qualité. La mission d'EarthSpark: éradiquer la pauvreté énergétique. Notre méthode: mener la recherche et le développement de modèles économiques qui peuvent essaimer et s'adapter à des aspects bien spécifiques de la pauvreté énergétique. Pour l’instant, nous avons lancé Enèji Pwòp, S.A., une entreprise sociale haïtienne, ainsi que SparkMeter, Inc., une entreprise technologique de compteurs intelligents. Nous avons également construit le premier réseau intelligent en Haïti rural, à l'échelle du village et à énergie solaire, réseau unique en son genre.
Travaillant en Haïti depuis 2009, EarthSpark International a vendu plus de 18 000 produits énergétiques verts de petites échelles, allant de lanternes solaires à de cuisinières à basse consommation énergétique. En 2012, EarthSpark a mis en route le tout premier micro-réseau prépayé privé à Les Anglais en Haïti, un petit village qui jusqu'à maintenant n'avait jamais eu accès au réseau électrique. En 2015, EarthSpark a étendu le réseau à 430 connexions, reliant directement plus de 2000 personnes avec de l'électricité 24h sur 24, fournit principalement par de l'énergie solaire et stockée en batterie, ce qui a réduit jusqu'à 80% les coûts énergétiques pour les clients. Ce réseau à l'échelle de la communauté est assez puissant pour fournir du courant à de petites industries, tout en étant capable de proposer un service accessible à chacun des résidents qui vit dans l'espace d'opération de l'infrastructure. Pour ceux qui vivent au-delà, EarthSpark continue à soutenir des entrepreneurs locaux dans la vente et la confection de produits solaires indépendants.
Libérer le potentiel: de un à quatre-vingts réseaux
EarthSpark envisage de construire quatre-vingts micro-réseaux en Haïti d'ici la fin 2020. Avec un réseau en pleine opération, EarthSpark a beaucoup appris, mais pour arriver à 80, certaines barrières doivent être levées. Aux côtés de partenaires locaux, EarthSpark a mené pour Haïti une étude du marché des micro-réseaux dans 100 villes et a travaillé à plusieurs échelons afin de lever le voile sur le paysage légal et règlementaire d'Haïti pour le développement et la gestion de micro-réseaux. Planifier est une chose, exécuter est autre chose, et le risque dans le processus de développement de micro-réseaux demeure extrêmement élevé.
EarthSpark est à la recherche de subventions afin de construire les trois prochains réseaux et, en parallèle, afin de mettre en place le projet finançable et les études-terrains pour les prochains 40 réseaux à venir. L'expérience jusqu'à maintenant acquise par EarthSpark dans le déploiements de micro-réseaux à mis en évidence que l'implémentation du processus - la construction effective de réseaux - est de loin le meilleur moyen de réduire le risque de futurs déploiements.
Electrification intégrée: habiliter les populations avec plus que des wattheures
L'électricité en soi ne sert à rien. C'est ce qui est fait avec chaque wattheure qui est véritablement transformateur. Avec des appareils hautement efficaces, des usages productifs de l'électricité, et une gestion raisonnée de la demande, non seulement les clients peuvent profiter de l'électricité nouvellement disponible, les opérateurs peuvent aussi maximiser la valeur-client et les revenus du réseau. EarthSpark travaille avec les communautés et les clients afin de profondément mesurer les besoins et opportunités des services énergétiques. EarthSpark adopte également une approche "d'électrification féministe" envers la planification de l'infrastructure, faisant en sorte que les voix et les positions des femmes soient pleinement prises en compte tout au long de la planification et du déploiement du processus d'électrification.
Micro-réseaux, résilience communautaire + énergie durable pour tous
Afin d'atteindre les objectifs d'énergie durable pour tous, 40% de toutes les nouvelles connexions proviendront de micro-réseaux. De part le monde, les gouvernements locaux se tournent vers les micro-réseaux afin de fortifier les infrastructures critiques et améliorer la résilience. L'innovation est transférable, et dans la mise en place d'un modèle pour une infrastructure de communauté verte, intelligente, et transformative, EarthSpark développe des solutions profondes à la fois pour l'accès énergétique et le changement climatique. Rejoignez-nous!
by Adam Eberwein
Whether in the United States in the 1930’s or in Haiti in present day, rural electrification has always had one primary goal: improve people’s lives. But electricity alone cannot achieve this.
Access to grid electricity in Les Anglais has numerous immediate benefits for users at all consumption levels, benefits that can be seen simply by taking a walk through town on a typical evening. With 30 watts of power and LED lightbulbs, a woman can study for entrance examinations into a Port-au-Prince University. A 20-watt radio for one man and an 80-watt television for another provide access to news and sporting events, keeping these customers informed on issues that can impact their daily lives. A 50-watt fan provides another with much needed comfort after a day’s work in the hot sun, possibly stopping the Dengue Fever-carrying mosquito that would have bitten the owner. These all provide instances of improvements in quality of life, but the question that should be asked is, “What’s next?”
Introducing income-generating activities in Les Anglais through newly developed business ventures, taking advantage of the availability of affordable, reliable electricity, is an important aspect of EarthSpark and Enèji Pwòp’s work in ‘integrated electrification.’ The business potential of electrification – the productive uses of electricity – can take many forms. For the upcoming corn season in southern Haiti, new customers flock to Les Anglais to use an electric-powered thresher provided by the local women’s coop that will remove dried corn kernels from the cob at a rate of a 180 pounds per hour, a rate significantly faster and less labor intensive than the 20 pounds per hour manual alternatives. A major businessman in town has access to an electric corn mill that, run alongside his existing diesel-powered mills, augments the throughput of corn in his milling business, saving his customers hours of standing in line with their buckets. A businesswoman sells refrigerated drinks from her recently purchased freezer to men visiting for the afternoon for a scheduled hearing at the courthouse.
Productive uses of electricity don’t always develop in a town on their own. EarthSpark is working with local businesses and customers to improve this. At times this might mean having a discussion with a customer on the proper use of storing frozen goods or troubleshooting why his or her freezer has failed and making recommendations.
To highlight this work, we’d like to share the story of local carpenter - Napoleon Jean Nasso. Napoleon had been hired by a local hotel to build doors and furniture specifically for the speed and quality that his electric power tools could provide. With a looming deadline, he needed to use his power saw, edge grinder and sanding tools. Unfortunately, inrush currents tripped the protective "mov" feature of his smart meter. EarthSpark staff worked tirelessly to overcome this. Solutions are commercially available for inrush current but not locally available. As a temporary strategy to help Napoleon meet his deadline, EarthSpark ordered inrush current dampening thermistors in the US, sized for his particular needs. Before the thermistors could arrive, EarthSpark staff members worked with Napoleon to assess which of his machinery he could use without tripping the meter so he could continue to work. After installing the thermistor, Napoleon was able to deliver on time.
These are some examples how EarthSpark and Enèji Pwòp continue to support growth within Les Anglais in the pursuit of an improved and sustained quality of life.
By Wendy Sanassee
EarthSpark and its local affiliate, Enèji Pwòp, are social enterprises building a model for community-based microgrids in Haiti. Knowing what the host-community needs and responding effectively are important drivers of operational sustainability. To strengthen communication with customers and community members, the Les Anglais Energy Committee was formally launched on April 26th. Its mission: Support the development and implementation of policies that help EarthSpark provide reliable, affordable electricity to the community. Specifically, the Energy Committee will be organizing events and serving as an additional communication channel connecting Enèji Pwòp, EarthSpark, local officials, and users of grid electricity.
The committee, which has an advisory role, consists of 10 members, carefully selected to reflect the diversity of the community. Candidates were chosen from various sectors like education, agriculture, business, and justice. Age and gender were also considered to ensure that youth and women were well represented. In the near future, when the mayor of Les Anglais is officially inaugurated, he will also send a representative. An executive committee of president, vice-president and secretary was elected by the committee through secret ballot. While committee members were hand selected for this inaugural term, Committee members will be elected by the community for subsequent terms.
The impact of the Committee has been astounding. Committee members are taking ownership by contributing to community meetings and answering customer questions and helping the community understand operations processes. To facilitate communication with the community, the committee members have agreed to have their contact details posted on the door of the Clean Energy Store (Magazen Enèji Pwòp).
The committee will meet monthly (or more frequently) with EarthSpark and Enèji Pwòp representatives to share their opinions on matters important to the community. Members are not paid for their time, which is an amazing testament to their commitment and dedication.
Community engagement and customer service in Les Anglais has taken a great step forward with the creation of this energy committee. On one hand, we are even closer to our customers and can more easily align operations with their interests. On the other hand, the community now has a stronger voice to make its grievances and suggestions heard. This might just be the beginning of a new chapter in the energy access story of this small town of Haiti which we hope to replicate elsewhere.
By Wendy Sanassee
Meet Acholo Maurice, an unmissable face in Les Anglais. Though her large hat and beautiful smile make her recognizable, she is most well-known for her homemade spaghetti ice-creams, locally known as “krem”. Born on September 15, 1964 in the neighboring town of Tiburon, Acholo is her “ti non”or nickname. Her real name is Antonica Maurice. She moved to Les Anglais, her mother’s hometown, 50 years ago. She started the spaghetti cream business 8 months ago, about four months after the micro-grid was inaugurated. Acholo finds that her most dedicated customers are school children who find the cold dessert an ideal snack to cool down with on a hot sunny day.
Acholo would not have been able to start this business without electricity. In fact, she bought all the required electrical equipment right after she became a grid customer. Every morning during school season, she wakes up early to pack her cream before setting out for the day. Then, around 4pm, she meticulously starts preparing this little dessert by following a recipe she got from another ice cream vendor. With her blender, she mixes some boiled spaghetti with other ingredients. Besides her blender, her freezer is another important asset. Acholo freezes the blended mixture for at least 14 hours until she is satisfied that the product is up to her standards. Her daily output can be as high as 100 ice creams on a school day which she sells before classes around 8 a.m., packed in small plastic bags. She also has three regular retailers who buy in bulk from her and then go around town shouting “Krem! Krem!” a sound everyone living in Les Anglais now knows well!
Preparing and selling spaghetti ice-cream is an important part of Acholo’s life. It is her own source of income which makes her an independent woman and helps her run her household. Her husband, Anfrane, became blind a few years ago which prevents him from having a job. This does not stop him from helping Acholo to sell goodies and sweets in his wooden trunk (“bak”) while seated on his veranda. This additional business helps them when there is no school and the cream doesn’t sell out easily.
Having personally eaten the cream, I can say it is delicious! For those who are not able to come to Les Anglais to taste it, Acholo has graciously shared her spaghetti cream recipe for those who want to try it at home:
Recipe for Acholo’s spaghetti cream
2 packs of spaghetti
8 small Bongu milk cartons (condensed milk)
Sugar to taste
By Arthur Jacquiau-Chamski
With a year of grid operations in Les Anglais, we’ve been able to gather some pretty cool data on how the grid is working through the use of smart meters developed by EarthSpark's first technology spin-off, SparkMeter!
Below, you can see the average monthly consumption per household by service level. (Remember that EarthSpark offers different service levels to different customers based on their needs and their ability to pay for service. 'Limyè' service, for example, offers basic lighting and phone charging. The "Gwo Bagay" service level translates directly as "Big Things" in English and powers small businesses beyond the power needed for simple cooling and freezing. As a comparison, consider the fact that US average monthly consumption was 911 kWh per month in 2014. Down below you can see the past two months' monthly and daily data straight from SparkMeter's cloud interface.
Below we have the share of diesel in the energy consumed each month. As you can see, the highest percentage of diesel was in November and only represented about 10% of the grid's total energy for that month. The diesel generator is most needed when there is high demand or low sunshine, so early winter and/or rain may explain higher generator use.
Part of the allure of pre-pay electricity is that customers can pay for electricity as their household energy budget allows - electricity can be sold in small increments just like kerosene. Now we have the numbers on energy transactions. What we see is that:
This is just some of the data we are able to see from SparkMeter and our generation logs that helps us understand our customers energy habits and helps us run an efficient, sustainable service.
by Rachel McManus
EarthSpark had been working closely with members of the Les Anglais community for over 5 years before the grid inauguration last year. This experience was invaluable to us in that it helped us to understand the town’s residents and their needs. It also allowed us to make friendships that turned into partnerships that help us get our work done. As we plan to roll out 79 more grids over the next 5 years, we understand that it will be impossible to spend that much time with each individual community. Therefore, we are thinking carefully about our ‘path to scale’ for community engagement in other towns.
We often receive requests from different stakeholders who would like to work with EarthSpark to build a microgrid in their community. To streamline the process of engaging these communities EarthSpark held a mayor’s expo in Les Anglais on May 19th for 14 representatives from 9 towns.
The day kicked off at 8 AM (ok, 9:30, but some people had travelled 7 hours to come!) with coffee and breakfast in the salle paroissiale – community center in Les Anglais. After a discussion on Enèji Pwòp and the history of the Les Anglais grid, we set out in the hot sun to tour the town and see the generation system. After the grid tour we stopped by Madame Ludgere’s depot to see her corn thresher and discuss how her women’s cooperative is working with EarthSpark to explore using electricity to process corn. While we strongly disagree, one of the mayors was so impressed that he stated it would be hard to find more such smart and industrious women like Madame Ludgere and her group in all of Haiti. After that, we stopped by the Magazen Enèji Pwòp to see how the Les Anglais’ grid ambassador, Rosane Jean-Jacques, sells plop plop, pre-pay electricity credits, to customers.
The mayors were very impressed with the grid and had a lot of questions. Almost all of the towns took EarthSpark’s executive director, Rachel McManus, aside to campaign privately for their town and discuss the steps they were taking to electrify their towns (such as forming energy committees, scoping out land for solar panels and reaching out to diaspora members for funding).
Each mayor received an information packet with technical specifications for the grid and its smart meters, a description of the agricultural processing technologies, and a module on Renewable Energy 101. They were also asked to fill out a short survey about the economic activities in their town.
The day closed with exchanges of phone numbers and some of the mayors suggesting a Whatsapp group ‘to keep the momentum going.’ We look forward to that momentum and to working with these communities in the future!
By Jamie Trahan
October 26th marked 6 months of operation of the solar powered smart microgrid in Les Anglais. Each month has been full of learning experiences that are invaluable as we prepare our future endeavors in rural electrification in Haiti. With the grid in its infancy, we are developing and streamlining processes for smooth daily operation and tackling a few technical hurdles. We are not just learning about the community’s needs but are learning together with the community. And we are not the only ones who are excited! Though the grid launched with 430 clients in April, we now have 440 customers, and over 30 residents have signed up and are eagerly awaiting a new installation for their home or business. We are also working on plans to extend the current footprint of the grid to include an additional street in Les Anglais, which should be completed before the year’s end. Bon bagay! (Haitian Creole for “good stuff”!)
A particularly novel feature of our microgrid is the use of a smart meter technology developed by EarthSpark’s own spin-off company SparkMeter. These high-functionality, low-cost meters were developed to meet the special needs of grid operators in expanding electricity access to low-consumption customers. One of the most salient SparkMeter features is its prepayment system, allowing customers to buy energy when they need it and as much as they can afford, in the same way that they currently pay for cell phone credit and kerosene. This obviates a high monthly electricity bill that is often more than they can afford and ensures cost recovery for the utility company. Among many other customizable applications, the smart meter also allows for time-of-use pricing. This functionality enables EarthSpark to charge a lower price for electricity during the middle of the day when the grid has extra low-cost solar-powered electricity and incentivizes consumption when energy costs are lower. While the grid is 24 hours/day, electricity is more expensive to deliver when the electricity is coming from the grid’s batteries.
With the smart meter technology in place, we can monitor electricity consumption across the entire grid and down to the level of each individual household. The data can then be used to manage loads, to educate clients on energy efficiency, and to evaluate and resolve technical problems that may arise. Technical issues will not repair themselves, and EarthSpark was thrilled to be able to expand its team this summer. Reozi Meisson is a resident of Les Anglais and a trained electrician who is now serving as the Grid Technician. On any given day, you may find Reozi climbing a ladder to repair a transformer, testing the circuits of a client’s home, or working with our Grid Ambassador Rosane on theft detection. Electricity theft is a major challenge for utilities across the world, and must be addressed diligently and carefully to ensure that all customers are aware of the consequences of theft for the community and for the grid. Eko Pwòp, our local grid brand, is not impervious to these challenges, and we are working on technical and non-technical solutions to manage theft.
EarthSpark is looking forward not just to powering the people of Les Anglais but to empowering them. We are exploring solutions in which electricity from the grid can be used to promote business development and can facilitate replacement of fossil fuel powered machines with emission free technologies. We hope to expand our business model so that we can service other rural towns in Haiti, and hope you will join us in this journey.