by Allison Archambault
NEW YORK, NY – EarthSpark International was honored on stage at the opening plenary session of the Clinton Global Initiative 2010 Annual Meeting for its exemplary work bringing clean energy solutions to Haiti. Dan Schnitzer, Co-Founder and Executive Director, represented EarthSpark on stage in front of hundreds of NGO leaders, heads of state, and corporate executives.
In the above photo EarthSpark Co-Founder and Executive Director Dan Schnitzer (left), receives recognition from President Bill Clinton. Photo Credit : Clinton Global Initiative
President Bill Clinton praised EarthSpark for its commitment to develop two new renewable microgrids and five new clean energy store franchises. “There are a lot of things going on in Haiti that can be accelerated with connectors like these microgrids,” he said.
EarthSpark joined the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in November 2009. As a member, EarthSpark is expected to develop and follow-through on a “commitment,” using CGI’s vast network of NGOs, businesses, and governments to implement its plan of action.
EarthSpark entered Haiti in August 2008 to help relieve the country’s acute energy poverty, made worse by the January 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Seventy percent of Haitians lacked access to electricity before the earthquake; that number has now risen to 80 percent. Most Haitians rely on dirty sources of fuel, like charcoal and kerosene, for lighting and cooking. On average, households in Haiti spend 10 percent of their income on lighting, which is twenty times what the average American spends. Moreover, the overuse of charcoal is contributing to massive deforestation in the country. This environmental damage has left Haiti vulnerable to catastrophic flooding during the hurricane season, which in 2008 wiped out an estimated four years of GDP growth.
EarthSpark is working with CGI and the Haitian government to build electricity access from the bottom up, starting with direct sale of solar lamps and energy efficient stoves to communities in rural Haiti by establishing local clean energy stores. EarthSpark currently operates one store in Les Anglais, serving a community of 25,000 people with cleaner energy solutions. This retail model targets underserved markets quickly, while also creating jobs and local centers of excellence in clean energy technology.
Building on this effort, in 2011 EarthSpark will develop two small renewable electricity grids to service communities like Les Anglais. The grids aim to increase access to clean and affordable electricity by harnessing the skills and support of the private sector and nonprofit groups in the communities they support. They are the next step of a “technology ladder” allowing customers to access larger amounts of clean electricity at a cost far below what they pay for in lighting from kerosene and candles.
“With over one million people left homeless and living in temporary housing, the Government of Haiti is developing ambitious blueprints for building permanent, sustainable communities around the country. EarthSpark is honored to work with government officials and businesses to develop the country’s first renewable microgrids,” said Co-Founder and Executive Director Dan Schnitzer.