Haiti: A Pathfinder to Post-Earthquake Responses for Environmental and Natural Resources
Haiti's Energy Resources
Compiled by: 3rd year University of South Carolina Law Student Katherine M. Malloy.
Haiti's energy resources are limited and the country, prior to the earthquake, relied on imported petroleum and unstable electrical generating stations to provide electricity. Post-earthquake little is known about the current status of Haiti's electricity generation and transmission facilities. The country is ripe for changes to be made in its energy sector.
Background Information on Haiti's Energy Sources and Electricity Production
A very small portion of Haiti's population had access to electricity prior to the earthquake. One source estimated that only 12.5% of the 9 million people living in Haiti have access to electricity. Most rural areas have very little electrical capability with Port-au-Prince being the area that has the greatest level of access to electricity. Haiti has a national electricity company, Electricité d'Haiti, which was created in 1971 to control generation and distribution of electricity. In 2006, total installed capacity was 270 MW, of which about 70% was diesel oil-fired thermal and 30% hydroelectric. The hydro-electric plant's capacity is dependent upon the seasons, which capacity much lower in the dry season. The thermo-electric plants appear to be run on imported petroleum. This system of electricity generation is not well connected to the country's provincial areas at present. One source indicated that about a third of electricity is obtained illegally by users. This system of electricity is unreliable, even if services are available, and most businesses and private residences, that can afford to do so, rely upon the use of small diesel generators to serve as an alternative source of power.
The Energy Information Administration reports that Haiti does not produce any oil, natural gas, or coal. Haiti imported approximately 14 thousand barrels of oil per day in 2008. Haiti does not have any proved reserves of oil or any refinery capacity. Haiti also does not have any proved reserves of natural gas. Haiti does not have any nuclear power production. In 2008 Haiti generated .55 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and consumed .33 billion kilowatt hours.
Wood is the principal energy source for the majority of Haitians, accounting for 75% of the nation's energy consumption. The reliance on wood for a fuel source has resulted in severe deforestation of Haiti; with one source estimating 6,000 hectares of soil are lost each year to erosion.
Little is known about what damage the earthquake has done to the electrical generating and transmission facilities in Haiti. But given that the country's electrical system was not functioning well before the earthquake, it is reasonable to assume that the country will require assistance in building a whole new system. Nations that are responding to aid Haiti following the earthquake will require energy sources for and large machinery and emergency stations. Generator power will likely provide much of the electricity needed for recovery efforts in the short term.
Possible Ways Forward:
Given the geographic limitations, and the lack of natural energy resources, the nation is well suited for the implementation of renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power. One way forward may be for small, localized energy initiatives to be set up by non-profits or businesses. The Haitian government pre-earthquake may not have been adequately equipped to implement and manage a wide-scale nationwide electricity distribution system. The best chance for successful implementation of renewable energy production facilities is for small test sites to be implemented to see what works for the geography and the people of Haiti. Wind energy may be a solution in some areas of Haiti and a small wind turbine program may provide enough power for a small town. Solar power could be implemented for some major facilities in Port-au-Prince and this would relieve pressure on the energy infrastructure already in place.
Article 255 of the Haitian Constitution states that in order "[t]o protect forest reserves and expand the plant coverage, the State encourages the development of local sources of energy: solar, wind and others." Chapter two of the Environmental Decree declares, in Article 29, that "[e]nergy for sustainable development" is a priority program for the period 2005-2020. There is no further mention of energy or power production in Haiti's Constitution or the Environmental Decree. Although, the Environmental Decree states in Article 84 that the "Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Economy and Finance will set the legal and administrative procedures required for the functioning of markets for pollution emission permits, certificates of emission reduction (for reducing emissions of CO2), for the use of environmental resources or natural." Article 109 asserts that "[t]he exploiters of mineral and hydrocarbon concessions have the responsibility of following the national regulations and standards established for pollutant emissions." Furthermore, Article 134 provides that "buildings, farms, commercial establishments, industrial or craft, vehicles, combustion machinery or other equipment used by any person in national territory must comply with the technical standards on gas emissions in force."
For Further Information:
The Energy Information Administration: http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/country/country_energy_data.cfm?fips=HA
Library of Congress Country Studies: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi bin/query/D?cstdy:1:./temp/~frd_ie2m::
World Resource Institute: http://earthtrends.wri.org/text/energy-resources/country-profile-80.html
Vermont Institute for Energy and the Environment Blog: http://www.vermontlawenergy.org/2010/01/electricity-in-haiti.html
Energy and Capital Website: http://www.energyandcapital.com/articles/haiti-energy-supply/1054
Haitian deforestation imagery from NASA: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a002600/a002640/
Article that mentions a 2006 grant of $18.1 million from the Inter-American Development Bank to support energy production and halt deforestation: http://www.iadb.org/NEWS/detail.cfm?artid=3506&language=En&id=3506&CFID=3655056&CFTOKEN=57710592
Article on possible use for garbage as an energy source in Haiti: http://www.miamiherald.com/582/story/1385768.html
Solar Energy Powering Reconstruction Efforts in Haiti: http://www.inhabitat.com/2010/01/21/solar-energy-powering-reconstruction-efforts-in-haiti/
Wind power a viable, but unreliable option to improve Haiti's energy system: http://ca.news.yahoo.com/s/capress/100125/national/haiti_wind_power
Solar Power Relief for Haiti: http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/energy/24706/
Haiti provides opportunity for free energy roll-out: http://pesn.com/2010/01/16/9501605_Haiti_assist_opportunity_for_fe_rollout/
Article on how power has been restored to parts of Port au Prince: http://bajanreporter.com/?p=8182
Article on how Sol, Inc. has provided solar powered lights to aid in the reconstruction efforts: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/01/haiti_solar_sol_relief_earthquake.php
Photo credits: Search.USA.gov.
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