Renewable Energy in HaitiRecognized as one of the most impoverished nations in the world, Haiti has experienced a lot of turmoil over the last several decades. The challenges that political and natural disasters have brought have affected hundreds of thousands of people who now live in poverty and without access to electricity. Today, Haiti’s government is exploring new alternatives so that more people have the means to power their homes. Renewable energy in Haiti hopes to decrease poverty and increase access to electricity.

The Present Situation

As it currently stands, only about 45% of Haiti’s residents have access to electricity. Right now, 80% of the electricity in Haiti comes from imported fossil fuels and those who live in rural areas find themselves relying on dirty energy solutions like wood and charcoal. These resources can potentially lead to environmental issues such as deforestation and carbon emission while also negatively impacting the health of Haiti’s inhabitants. For these reasons, Haiti’s government is committed to investing in new means of energy that are both clean and cost-efficient.


Although imported fossil fuels are Haiti’s primary source of electricity, there are several other options available that hold significant potential to transform Haiti if the country was well-optimized for these alternative sources. These resources are not only safe but are also renewable, meaning that they are unlikely to deplete or ever run out.

One alternative that Haiti is trying to integrate into its systems is hydroelectricity, which is power that water generates. Of all the renewable options available, hydropower has contributed the most to Haiti’s energy supply. It has improved conditions for those who live near areas where water flows, such as Haiti’s Artibonite River, where the Péligre Dam is based. Despite its prevalence in many communities, hydropower is still underutilized and it takes a lot of time and effort to incorporate such systems countrywide. With that said, the developments that Haiti’s government has made are promising and speak volumes about the future of Haiti. The Péligre Dam, which used to run at less than 60% capacity, is now generating 54 megawatts of power after more than a decade and will continue to provide sustainable energy for the next 40 years.

Solar Power

Solar power is another form of renewable energy in Haiti, which has a lot of potential due to the country’s warm and tropical location. In rural areas that do not receive electricity, such as Haiti’s South department, people depend on the energy that generators produce. Generators run on diesel, kerosene and other dirty solutions. These expensive generators, however, are not fully effective and only provide enough power to fulfill basic needs. The installation of mini-grids and solar panels in these areas could alleviate such problems and provide enough electricity for homes and businesses to receive power every day. Schools, hospitals and agricultural institutions are among those that can benefit from solar energy. Today, Haiti’s rural southwest has implemented grid systems to provide electricity for 8,000 people across 1,600 households.

Project Phoenix

While hydropower and solar power are at the focus of Haiti’s developments, other solutions are also available and can address additional issues the country faces. One example of this is waste-powered energy, which appeared as the subject of an initiative titled Project Phoenix. This proposal, which called for the collection of 1,600 tons of garbage every day, anticipated the generation of at least 30 megawatts of electricity per hour. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) published a final review of the project in 2014, highlighting the strategic recommendations and steps necessary to proceed as planned. Introducing a waste-to-energy method in Haiti would benefit cities such as Port-au-Prince, where garbage is overabundant and illegal dumping is a serious problem.

Wind Energy

Wind energy is another option Haiti has considered, though it is not as viable since it depends on seasonal variability and location. Additionally, Haiti does not have any wind farms, which makes this alternative appear less effective. However, Haiti does have measurement systems to record data on the capabilities of wind power. Estimates suggest that wind power can deliver electricity at 30-50% of the cost of solar energy in windier areas. Though there are no plans to build wind farms in Haiti, the construction of a power plant did begin in 2017. Not only will the plant optimize wind but it will also be the first to utilize a mixture of wind, solar and diesel energy. The power plant will be able to produce up to 160 kilowatts of electricity.

How Renewable Energy Reduces Poverty

While these renewable energy sources are capable of substituting imported fossil fuels, they also play a significant role in alleviating poverty. Hundreds of thousands of Haitians rely on generators, which are expensive and can only provide electricity for a limited time. By implementing renewable energy substitutes, impoverished Haitians can save money that would otherwise go toward paying for diesel-powered electricity, enabling them to afford other basic essentials such as food, water and shelter.

About 10Power

Over and above the fundamental benefits of renewable energy, the renewable energy sector has the potential to create job opportunities for Haitians. With the demand for low-cost electricity being so high in Haiti, businesses are starting to emerge and are combating the frequent problems residents endure. One company, known as 10Power, is a solar startup partnering with locals to install and provide financing for solar energy projects in Haiti’s rural areas. It was responsible for installing solar arrays at two of Haiti’s water purification centers, which provide water to local communities and support more than 600 microbusinesses. Women lead many of these microbusinesses.

The company also worked on the array installation at Haiti’s UNICEF headquarters, which was the largest solar installation on any UNICEF base in the world. The startup 10Power has grown dramatically since its founding in 2016 and is now working with a sales pipeline of projects worth more than $100 million. Today, it is collaborating with the Solar Electric Light Fund and Haiti Tec to provide field experience for student technicians and create jobs for many of Haiti’s men as women. Implementing renewable energy methods in Haiti is significant because doing so will positively impact the nation’s economy.

Haiti continues to explore various renewable energy options available in the hopes of making a positive difference in many of its cities and regions. If Haiti optimizes these alternatives correctly, the government will bring power not just to people’s homes but to their lives as well.

– Eshaan Gandhi
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Women-led CompaniesWhen women work, they help engage and encourage more women to get into the workforce and thus drive the cycle of helping to lift women and their communities out of poverty. A 2016 McKinsey report estimated that advancing global gender parity in economic activity by 2025 could add up to $28 trillion to the global GDP per year.

In addition to reducing poverty, a United Nations study found that businesses with a higher proportion of women executives and directors saw an increase in profits and returns on invested capital. Not only do women in business help reduce global poverty and increase the global market, but many of their companies provide services directed at those in poverty. Here are six women-led companies that give back to the poor.

6 Women-Led Companies that Help Poor Communities

  1. 10Power: CEO Sandra Kwak founded 10Power in 2016 hoping to bring power to communities without access to the electric grid. Kwak and her company work with local partners in Haiti to make renewable energy affordable and accessible for places that need it most. Only a third of the island has access to the electric grid, but 10Power hopes to change that. By teaching local installers and engineers about solar power and panel installation, 10Power give more people access to clean, renewable power.
  2. CloQ: In 2016, co-founder Rafaela Cavalcanti helped launch the app CloQ, with the mission to provide access to cheaper and easy-to-use formal nano-credit to the lower-income and unbanked population in Brazil and to include them in the formal credit system. Since CloQ caters to a poorer population who may not necessarily have financial data, their credit model is based on client evaluation, behavioral and reliability, rather than solely on financial records. The app focuses on providing micro-loans, usually around $25. As the connection and relationship between the user and CloQ grows, loans up to $150 can be awarded. As 33 percent of the Brazilian population does not use or have a bank account, this app is a great solution for taking out small loans and preventing people from falling victim to loan sharks.
  3. Laboratoria: Co-founder and CEO Mariana Costa Checa began Laboratoria in 2014 in Peru. Laboratoria’s main initiative is to provide low-income and poor women with access to education with free web-development and coding instruction. The 6 month-long boot camp focuses on front-end development and UX design. Students also learn a variety of coding languages including JavaScript, HTML and CSS. The company also helps place their graduates into jobs by hosting hackathons to connect companies with students. More than 1,000 women have successfully completed Laboratoria’s program and more than 80 percent of those women went on to work in the technology industry. With over 450,000 unfilled tech jobs expected to arise in Latin America, Checa hopes her company will give low-income women the skills and opportunities to fill those jobs.
  4. Unima: Co-founder Laura Mendoza helped start Unima in Mexico in order to provide cheap, efficient diagnostic testing to poor and remote communities. The organization developed a fast and low-cost diagnostic and disease surveillance technology, particularly targeting tuberculosis (a highly contagious disease prevalent in poor communities). Patients put a drop of blood on a specially-designed paper. The result of the chemical reaction on the paper is evaluated by a smartphone app. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and each paper costs around $1. Due to its simple design, Unima’s technology does not require a lab to evaluate blood samples, so the diagnostic testing is easily transportable to remote communities. The Unima also stores all results from the smartphone app in a cloud server for real-time data surveillance. While large-scale testing of the technology began in Mexico, Unima hopes to expand its reach to remote and low-income communities in Africa as well.
  5. Vunilagi Book Club: Started in 2017, founder Adi Mariana Waqa’s book club provides books and a passion for reading to kids in Fiji. She and her volunteers encourage kids to read and ask questions. By inspiring a love of learning in youths, the book club’s mission is to help kids avoid the generational cycles of poverty by tackling illiteracy and encouraging them to pursue education and employment. Vunilagi has donated over a thousand books to six different rural villages and is run by around 30 volunteers.
  6. Wazi Vision: Founded in 2016 by Brenda Katwesigye, Wazi Vision provides affordable eye care. In Uganda, home of Wazi Vision, 1.2 million people are visually impaired, but eye care (testing and corrective lenses) is very expensive. Wazi Vision designs and provides eyeglasses at 80 percent of the cost of other glasses on the market. Wazi Vision also trains and employs women to design glasses, perform eye tests and manage delivery logistics. In order to provide low-cost eye care, Wazi Vision, supported by the United States Africa Development Foundation (USADF) and Greentec Capital Partners, developed an eye testing software that uses Virtual Reality. The technology does not require an optometrist, helping Wazi Vision reach more remote communities that may lack an optical center. Since its inception, Wazi Vision has tested over 5,000 children in schools across Uganda, donates glasses to children who cannot afford even their cheaper version, and continues to donate 10 percent of every pair of glasses bought toward the purchase of a pair of glasses for a child in need.

These six women-led companies are helping those in poverty, as well as providing inspiration and empowerment for other women looking to own and run businesses. These companies not only benefit the women who have helped establish them but countless others in need.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr