Achieving Energy Access in Haiti

By Emma Best
August 16, 2022
Before this project was deployed, households were paying on average $8.25 per month for dirty fuels which only provided intermittent energy access.

— This blog touches on Okra Solar’s 300 household project in rural Haiti, looking into the speed of installation, cost-per-connection and the future of our work within the nation. We’ll be publishing a detailed case study once substantial data from the site has been collected – watch this space!

Energy Access in Haiti

In 2020, the World Bank reported a mere 46.9% of Haiti’s population had access to electricity. Energy access rates have remained virtually unchanged for 40 years.

According to IDB, based on Haiti’s existing rate of electrification, the country will not achieve universal electrification until 2150. Even those fortunate enough to receive electricity have sporadic and unreliable access at best.

Birds-eye view of Dulagon village where the first Haitian mesh-grid was deployed

Moreover, the country remains the poorest nation in the Latin America and Caribbean region and scores in the bottom 20 countries on the UN human development index. Historically, energy access projects have struggled to deploy in Haiti due to widespread social unrest and political challenges, which was greatly aggravated by Covid-19.

Okra Solar in Haiti

In 2021, the first Okra Solar mesh-grid was deployed in the country by the Haitian energy developer: Alina Enèji. The project connected 35 rural households in rural Dulagon with reliable and affordable energy access for the first time.

In late April 2022, with the support of Haiti’s Off-Grid Electrification Fund (OGEF), the project expanded to 300 homes. The expansion is the first stage of a broader electrification effort to energise 5,000 households in rural Haiti with Okra’s mesh-grid technology.

Dulagon

The community is 122 kilometres north of the nation’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and 5 kilometres from the closest grid. The majority of adults earn income from growing and selling rice and vegetables.

Our initial survey data shows:

4 people

Average household size in Haiti

$41.31

Average monthly household earnings (not including remittance)

82%

Rate of school attendance among children

36%

Adults without income

The average household earning indicates the majority are living off less than 40 cents per person per day. According to the United Nations Development Program, anyone living off less than $1.25 a day is in extreme poverty.

Before this project was deployed, households were paying on average $8.25 per month for dirty fuels that only provided intermittent energy access. With electricity from Okra’s mesh-grid, households are now paying an average of $4.13 a month for 24/7 solar energy access.

When asked which appliance the households wanted, fans, light bulbs and televisions were the most desired items, with over 93% of households interested in buying fans. Families also expressed interest in radios, blenders, irons, rice cookers, water pumps and electric stoves.

Additionally, close to 20% of households expressed interest in purchasing fridges and freezers. Freezers and fridges improve climate resilience by enabling households to store produce during periods of drought. This drastically increases food security. Powering fridges and freezers would not be possible on a lower-tiered energy access system; by providing tier 3-4 energy access, this project is unlocking long-term potential for socio-economic development (The World Bank multi-tier energy access framework that defines tiers based on electricity availability and power capacity).

The multi-tier energy access framework as defined by the World Bank

System Design & Project Timeline

A total of 63 kWp solar and 178kWh LFP battery storage was installed across 300 households. The system was designed to provide households with up to 440Wh/day, with average household usage currently sitting at 311Wh per day – slightly above the average of 200-300 Wh/day range that is typically supplied by mini-grids.

The site used an innovative “shared capacity” design, sharing power collectively amongst households to reduce costs (our upcoming case study will dive into this further). Additionally, as part of the project design, each household received three free lightbulbs and one fan.

The project took four months in total, from the initial purchase of equipment to having lights turned on in Dulagon. Most of this timeframe was taken up by shipment of the equipment from China to Haiti, which took longer than expected due to global supply chain issues, closures at Chinese ports due to COVID-19 and limited vessels travelling from China to Haiti. As sea freight schedules slowly return to normal, it is hoped that shipping time to Haiti can be reduced in the next phase.

Additionally, the installation of the 300 households took a team of eight installers 35 days (an average of eight buildings a day), matching the scheduled installation timeline.

Cost Per Connection

The 300-household project’s total cost per connection was $488, with a 30-day average consumption of 227Wh/day as of the time of writing.

We estimate that constructing an equivalent mini-grid at this site would have a cost of at least $932/connection. This figure is broadly consistent with the average costs cited in AMDA’s benchmarking report.

By installing a mesh-grid, Alina Enèji was able to provide an equivalent energy service for 52% of the cost of traditional solutions at a pace far quicker than average mini-grid project development timeframes (which can take years to approve and construct).

$932/cxn (estimated for mini-grids) vs. $488/cxn (mesh-grids)

Technicians from Alina Enèji installing solar panels on a rooftop in Dulagon village

Subsidy Model

The project benefited from an upfront subsidy of $250 per household from the World Bank-funded Off-Grid Energy Access Fund (OGEF). Previously OGEF was offering Mini-Grid Developers a $650 results-based subsidy. The success of the adapted subsidy highlights the importance of investment in innovative technology and how up-front payment can unlock energy access.

Haiti’s Future

Alina Enèji is making advances in the sector with this project and paving the way for other energy developers to gain investment and deploy energy access projects within the country. As previously noted, this 300-household project is part of a larger project to deploy solar energy to 5,000 Haitian homes. .

This Dulagon mesh-grid would not have been possible without the continued support of the implementation partners Alina Enèji, Off-Grid Energy Access Fund, the Mayor of Dulagon and most importantly ANARSE (Haiti’s National Regulatory Authority for the Energy Sector. ANARSE’s honourable work on this project has enabled a Haitian energy developer to be at the forefront of the rural electrification movement within Haiti.

So far, we have seen these Haitian households use energy access to power fans, freezers and fridges. Families are using the freezers to create small businesses selling cold water and drinks. One home has used their energy access to open a restaurant, serving the local community. Energy access is a catalyst for economic growth, and we’re excited to continue to monitor how the community utilises productive power.

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Emma Best works in project development at Okra. She has worked with international institutions including the European Commission and African Development Bank to design and implement development projects globally. She holds a masters in Globalisation and Development from Maastricht University and is a published academic in the field of non-profit marketing.

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