Yes, it’s the strategic energy management plan that is, as Renewable Energy World puts it, ‘sweeping the island’ and ‘making massive progress’. The article I’m referring to was written by Solar Energy International’s Latin America guru Laurie Guevara-Stone.
Unfortunately, the Cuban Energy Revolution is a near complete disaster.
Of course, if you approach Cuban residents as a foreign reporter such as Laurie and ask for the skinny regarding the country’s current state of affairs, you’ll have nothing but Cohiba smoke blown up your ass. ..and the Granma is even worse. If you seriously expect to obtain actual news from these sources, you probably also think the U.S. trade embargo has a lot to do with how poor Cubans are.
Anyways, the Cuban Energy Revolution was doomed from the start and it wasn’t concept or execution that sank the ship, it was design.
If you don’t already know, the project was based on five main strategies:
1. Energy Efficiency and Conservation
Much like their cars, Cubans had been using the same outdated home appliances for a very long time – items such as kerosene stoves and big bulky refrigerators. So it made sense to replace these with new higher efficiency electric gear. It also made sense to their Chinese trading partners since that’s where it all came from. The problem is that the Chinese appliances they purchased are junk. The stoves and fridges are broken down across the nation with almost no availability of replacement parts. The Cubans refer to their new refrigerators as ‘Sudaito’ which roughly translates into ‘fat man that sweats a lot’ as a result of the inadequate insulation. If that wasn’t enough, the people were forced to give up their old bulky appliances (which are now sold on the black market since they are very valuable due to their robustness) and purchase the new appliances through an unreasonable gov’t financing plan.
2. Increasing the Availability and Reliability of the National Electric Grid
Decentralized power is great right? Especially when you’re on an island that is susceptible to hurricanes that can knock out your large power stations. ..right?? Right!
So the concept was to move power generation from their small number of large-scale Cuban-oil-fired power plants to numerous micro plants distributed throughout the island. So what type of micro-generators would YOU select for the job? Gas turbines? Solar? Wind? A mix of these? Well, if you were Cuba, you’d choose back-up style diesel generators that aren’t designed to run for extended periods. The result is that their distributed micro-power plants are now failing on a regular basis resulting in 4-5 hour pocketed blackouts that have become business as usual for the Cuban people. And when they try to restart the old oil-fired plants for back-up, they can’t because it takes longer to start them than it does to repair the diesel generators. Do you think Cuba’s agreement to purchase Venezuelan diesel influenced equipment selection? Hmmm
3. Incorporating More Renewable Energy Technologies into their Energy Portfolio
Aside from a few scattered Solar PV modules here and there, this simply didn’t happen. Of course, all they said was that they’d ‘incorporate more renewables’, so, I suppose it DID happen!
4. Increasing the Exploration and Production of Local Oil and Gas
True! However, this is primarily a joint-venture between China, France and Britain since most of the O&G is off shore and Cuba does not have the technology to acquire it. So you tell me who wins? Cubans? Negativa.
5. International Co-operation
So you see, positive initiative does not necessarily yield positive results. However, sometimes just getting people to think that it does, is good enough for some governments.