Along the main highways in Haiti there is sporadic electricity, but once you leave main roads there is almost none. Sirona Cares in partnership with the IEEE (the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers) is bringing electricity to rural Haiti. This exciting project was the impetus for last weeks trip.
The CSI (Community Solutions Initiative) Team comprised of IEEE members has been working diligently towards a electricity solution for developing countries, a project needed desperately in rural Haiti. Thanks to the imagination, skill and hard work of the CSI team and the generosity of the IEEE, the dream of access to electricity will soon become a reality. Sirona Cares has worked with the CSI team to form a sustainable business model for the deployment of equipment based upon sustainability rather than charity. During our trip we worked out the logistics required to deploy the pilot units in January.
Each unit is a trailer with a self-contained system including 40 small batteries, four large batteries, and six solar panels which will create 6 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. The concept is simple, for each unit, 40 electricity "customers" will pay a deposit to receive a kit containing a battery, three DC lights (so no inverter is needed) and a cell phone charging adaptor. The customers will pay a monthly fee which was calculated by determining the cost rural Haitians pay for kerosene, candles, cell phone charging and other substitutes for having electricity in their homes. The fee that each customer pays will allow them to recharge their batteries as often as they need to each month. Customers can offset their monthly expense by charging their neighbors cell phones.
In addition to recharging customer batteries, the unit manager will also have four large batteries with which he can create a business. The object of our trip was to complete the business plans of the individuals selected as pilot unit managers. The goal of this project is to create a situation in which a Haitian entrepreneur can pay to lease the unit and still make a profit. At that point the program becomes sustainable, and there will be light throughout Haiti as the project expands. Ultimately the project will positively impact 1 million Haitian people.
I cannot adequately articulate the excitement for this project that was expressed to us in Haiti. Many said that this would be "bigger than Digicel", which is incredible in that Digicel revolutionized communication in Haiti by creating an affordable way for people throughout the country to communicate. We have a lot of work to do, both here and with our partners in Haiti to launch this program. The units are currently being fabricated and readied for transport. The IEEE groups who have provided funding for this program are: Humanitarian Technology Challenge (HTC), Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society (NPSS) and Power and Energy Society (PES). As I could not articulate properly the excitement over the project in Haiti, I cannot adequately express their thanks to the IEEE for bringing this project to Haiti.
We will report on the businesses and stories from the customers, one of whom is pictured below: