We traveled to Washington DC last week to meet with different funding organizations for the IEEE/Sirona Haiti Rural Electricity Project. The discussions went very well and we are now back following up, organizing materials that show the scalability of this project, and preparing for the shipment of the first six units. It is a very exciting time for us. During our meeting at the UN Foundation we discussed the fact that 2012 is the International Year of Sustainable Energy For All. We are excited to be part of this important initiative.
In Haiti our groups are preparing for the arrival of the equipment as well as the training for our first six Franchise Operators and first Field Technicians. In only a few weeks we will be turning the lights on, for the first time, in 240 homes and starting six small businesses. By the end of the year we hope to have all 15 pilot units in Haiti, and have lit 600 homes and started 15 businesses. The children above live in an orphanage that will receive light next month. We are working to co-locate several of the next units with schools in Haiti.
The pilot will demonstrate that Haitians are both willing and able to pay leases on their equipment and that we have designed a sustainable program. Sirona will use the data we collect from the pilot to encourage social investors to supply capital for formation of a Haitian for-profit company, Sirona Haiti. This capital will fund in-country assembly and bring the project to scale. By the end of year five we hope to supply electricity to 1,000,000 Haitian people. Very much a chicken-and-egg scenario, Haiti is far too risky for capital investment on an unproven business plan, so the equipment and pilot was developed by the IEEE Community Solutions Initiative Group and The Sirona Cares Foundation: both non-profits that are focused upon using alternative energy to improve lives in developing countries. Many groups within the IEEE contributed funding for the pilot.
The beauty of this project lies in its simplicity. Due to our relationships and our experience in Haiti we know that to simply survive Haitians have honed their entrepreneurial skills. This project gives Franchise Operators the ability to supply home battery kits (3 lights, wiring, a dc outlet for cell phones and small appliances, and a rechargable battery) to forty homes and use the excess energy generated by the 1.2 kW charging station for their own business. The battery charging service alone more than covers the Franchise Operator's lease payment, and what he/she makes beyond that is theirs to keep. We are excited by all of the possibilities and we fully expect to see uses of this power that we cannot even imagine. Perhaps the home kit customer will use their battery to charge a neighbors cell phone and offset his/her monthly fee ($50 Haitian per month, or $6.70). Where there is money to be made, we can be certain that the Haitian entrepreneur will capitalize on this opportunity, at every level.
People ask about our concerns regarding theft of equipment and the answer is simple: Haitian-to-Haitian accountability will provide security for the equipment. If someone steals a battery kit they are not stealing from us, they are stealing the from their neighbor, probably the first electric light he/she has ever had; and from the Franchise Operator who will then face a challenge meeting his/her lease payment. Theft is not a primary concern for us, because we know Haitians will manage that risk.
There is much to do, and daily we receive positive comments as well as inquiries about access to this program for rural Haiti. Interest is very high, and we are working very hard to deploy this program as quickly and efficiently as possible. I would ask that any reader interested in investing in this program contact us for a copy of the Sirona Haiti Business Plan.