Rural electric co-operatives from the USA are working with local people in Haiti to help light the country’s villages.
Last month dozens of volunteers from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) travelled to Haiti where they assisted local co-operators to bring light to two cities. The project is the result of a partnership between NRECA International, the association’s international development body, and Coopérative Electrique de l’Arrondissement des Côteaux (CEAC), a local co-op set up in 2013.
“We are busy connecting homes to the system in Côteaux and Roche-à-Bateau,” Dana Brosig, NRECA International project manager, told Electric Co-op Today. Ms Brosig was in Haiti when the streetlights glowed for the first time in the two communities. CEAC will provide electricity to a third community by the end of the year.
“There was a definite excitement in the air. People feel a connection to this project as we have nearly 800 members of the co-operative throughout the three towns,” added Ms Brosig.
The co-op could provide electricity to up to 1,600 member-consumers. According to USAID, Haiti’s power sector is one of the weakest in the Western hemisphere. Seven million people did not have access to electricity prior to the 2010 earthquake. The disaster further exacerbated the problem, resulting in 75% of electricity being lost. The state-owned electrical utility, Electricité d’Haiti, requires an annual subsidy of more than USD$170m (£109.7m) to maintain its operations.
Ms Brosig added: “Haitians are not used to paying bills at the end of the month and in this area, are not used to having or paying for electricity. We didn’t want to connect them and have them run up a large bill that they couldn’t pay.” To address this issue, NRECA and CEAC have devised a prepaid metering system, allowing members to pay in small amounts throughout the month.
Next year NRECA plans to roll out the second phase of the project, which will focus on growing and mentoring CEAC. The association has also launched an appeal for volunteers from USA rural electric co-operatives to work with CEAC staff, particularly member service representatives, accountants and community outreach experts.