The IEEE/Sirona Haiti Rural Electricity Project is designed to do many things in addition to bringing light to rural people in Haiti. The project is economically sustainable, and relies upon a customer base that pays a monthly fee for electric service. The cost to the Haitian family is $6.70 per month (or 250 Haitian Goude), a price set to be less than they were paying for kerosene, candles and cell phone charging.
In addition, our work encourages entrepreneurship and development of a formal economy. Customers pay their fee to the local Operator who runs the solar 1.5 Kw SunBlazer unit and pays a monthly lease to Sirona. In this way our economics are stable and we can both service the equipment for the long term, and roll revenue into more units and supply energy to more homes. Every unit creates a business. Finally, our program is designed to create jobs. We have worked hard to prove that our model works, and thanks to the rural people of Haiti we have shown that we can deliver a SunBlazer into rural areas and successfully collect payments for seven months. We have not had a single incident of theft or damage to a unit, every home has paid, and every Operator has paid. Now it is time to create more jobs: assembly jobs.
Over the holidays both the Sirona and IEEE Community Solutions Initiative (CSI) teams rolled up our sleeves and readied ourselves to do a lot of work in Haiti this spring. USAID is working with us on potentially funding two grants, one which will place another 18 SunBlazer units in rural Haiti in the next few months, and the other to build out an assembly facility in Port au Prince so that Haitian jobs will be created to build more SunBlazers. Nine units are currently in New York partially assembled. These units were donated by the IEEE and their volunteers are preparing not only the units, but also the assembly processes, for delivery in Haiti. IEEE and Sirona team members will work together to establish Haitian assembly of SunBlazers beginning with the completion of the first nine units in Haiti. These units are destined for St. Marc where USAID/OTI have projects underway. Then, nine new units will be built in Haiti and sent to communities currently on Sirona's waiting list. There are many contractual details to work out, so much of the work this month has been done from California via e-mail and in New York by the IEEE members. We anticipate returning to Haiti sometime next month. Our Haitian In-Country Manager, Lex Edme (pictured above) has already made trips to St. Marc with OTI to evaluate potential Operators in communities selected by the OTI team.
President Martelly recently stated that his government's goal is to reach 200,000 homes in two years. Sirona will be working alongside to accomplish this goal. Our Sirona and IEEE/CSI teams are made of big thinkers and action oriented people. We dream big, we work hard, and we enjoy seeing the positive change that our work brings in rural Haiti now, and eventually in other countries where energy poverty persists.