Could Renewable Energies Involve Everyone in Cuba?

August 31, 2017 |

By Fernando Ravsberg

Solar panels in Cuba. Photo: artemisadiario.cu

HAVANA TIMES – Could renewable energy be an effort of all? The energy situation in Cuba is uncertain. Venezuela, its main supplier of fuels, is reducing deliveries and may even close the tap completely, should the government be overthrown or lose the next election.

Havana seeks new markets for contracting out its professional services and attempts to expand existing ones. However, in the economic and commercial field it would be very difficult to replace the bilateral agreement with Venezuela, doctors for oil.

This brings the need to think about alternatives because it is impossible to go back to the blackouts and try to keep the economic locomotive running. There will not be many who decide to do tourism in a country in the dark, even if the hotels have an electric generator.

The government is taking steps in two very expensive directions, the search for new oil suppliers and the development of renewable energy including solar parks, windmills, biomass generating plants and mini hydroelectric plants.

It plans to make a jump in generation from renewable sources, going from the current 4% to 24% in 2030. The effort is worth it despite the enormous cost, much more expensive when the change in energy matrix falls only on the shoulders of State.

Cuban doctor in Venezuela.  Cuba needs to accelerate the change of energy matrix faced with the possibility that Chavismo loses the government of Venezuela and the exchange of doctors for oil disappears.

Like almost everything in Cuba, the task is centralized, without citizens being able to participate in an individual way, beyond the engineers and workers who dedicate themselves to one of the state companies, following the plan programmed by the government.

Certainly a mission of this magnitude needs support at the highest political level and must be carried out by the best specialists in the nation. But there is no reason to prevent those citizens who are able to do so from collaborating in the task.

At the end of the year they will start selling solar panels produced in Cuba to private individuals. This is an excellent idea because it will reduce the national consumption of fuel and will reduce the family bills. The best solution is always the one that benefits all parties.

And much more could be done. They could, for example, eliminate taxes and customs restrictions on renewable energy equipment. Any citizen who wants and can bring them to the country should be allowed to because it benefits everyone.

Cuba’s oil reserves barely reach 30% of its internal needs and are also non-renewable. Photo: Raquel Pérez Díaz

It would be a good idea to also eliminate the “no commercial value” clause because if someone wants to import windmills and sell them to the farmers; it would also be contributing to the national effort, reducing the import of fuels.

If a self-employed laborer or entrepreneur – national or foreign – were to import solar panels, windmills or other renewable energy generating equipment, the payment of taxes should be minimized.

Any individual or cooperative that generates more than it consumes, should be able to sell the surplus to the electrical company to add it to the national energy grid or to supply others, as happened in Spain, before the Right arrived at the government.

Many Cubans have no resources to acquire such equipment but there are those who can. If society already accepted that there is income inequality, it would be best if it manifests itself in the promotion of national plans, which in the long run benefit all.

In Cuba many farmers earn enough to invest in renewable energies for their farms if the government allowed the free importation and sale of such equipment. Photo: Raquel Pérez Díaz

Imagine the savings that would be made to the national economy if private restaurants (paladares), hostels, aid workers and diplomats returning from missions, citizens returning to live in Cuba and foreigners residing on the island used green energy equipment.

I know tobacco growers with good income in Pinar del Rio who live without electricity. Why not let these farmers import windmills, water extraction systems and solar energy irrigation, and to enjoy a refrigerator, a TV or a fan?

The Achilles heel of the Cuban economy has always been the fuel, now the authorities take concrete steps to change the energy matrix but it would advance faster if all of us who live in Cuba were allowed to contribute.

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What's your opinion?

  • N.J. Marti

    Yes, why not let the private market share the funding of energy resources? The state sector in Cuba is too large. Too much fear of not being in exclusive control.

  • Chuck Bailey

    2030 is a long ways from now and target of 25% is not going to help anyone!!!

  • Chuck1938

    Thanks Fernando for another very instructive article, especially for those in authority.

    Since studying Environmental Health in New York in 1989, I have talked and pushed this issue for the past 20 years with everyone willing to listen in Cuba, especially in my hometown Guantanamo with no success.

    Although this region (southern Cuba) has the highest sunlight radiation index in the nation and Guantanamo has the largest square footage of cement roof (placa) except Havana, where hundreds of thousand of solar panel could be installed immediately, reducing the home consumption and returning the excess electricity generated to the national system, no one seems to care.

    Each of the these cement roofs in Cuba, could be converted into mini generating plants and a source of income for these dwellings, warehouses, government buildings etc.

    Who can be blamed except a stifling bureaucratic machinery, that allows tiny Barbados (450 Kms2) to have more solar water heaters than Cuba with its 114,000 square kms and Germany, where sunshine is premium, to have hundreds of times more solar panel than Cuba?

    The president of Cuba Solar turned his home in La Vibora, Havana into an impressive renewable energy laboratory, where water is heated, electricity is produced, fruits are dried, destilled water is produced and more for free, and few if any high ranking government official have not tried to replicate it’s result anywhere?

    It is past due, that most of these development possibilities in Cuba continue to be obstructed, stifled and killed, not by the “enemy” but by the basic lack of understanding and communication between the different ministries within the government.

    • Carlyle MacDuff

      You got that right Chuck1938.