By Victoria A. Rocha | ECT Staff Writer
U.S. AID has awarded a $24 million contract to NRECA International Ltd. to form a new electric utility that will aim to be the only utility in Haiti providing power 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The goal of the Haiti Pilot Project for Sustainable Electricity Distribution is to start a new regional utility in an area near Haiti’s north coast, including Limonade, Terrier Rouge and Trou de Nord. The utility will serve at least 5,000 residents in the greater Caracol area, a rural community about 20 miles east of Cap Haitien.
Power for the utility will come from a 10-megawatt heavy fuel oil and diesel plant serving an industrial park in Caracol. Currently, NRECA International is extending distribution lines from the plant to two new villages and a new housing development.
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“No utility in Haiti, except our project in Caracol, is providing power 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Jim Walsh, senior representative at NRECA International Programs. “People are buying generators or inverters and providing themselves power 24/7, but no utility is providing power 24/7,” not even in the capital Port-au-Prince, he said.
In contrast, the utility, called PPSELD for now, aims to show “how an efficient, modern utility works by providing demonstrable evidence of the value of community engagement and how this results in lower losses and improved utility sustainability,” said Walsh.
PPSELD eventually will hire and train up to 80 local residents to fill staff positions and will consult with community leaders and residents on tariffs, customer obligations and other issues.
“There is much to do, but this project will be a cornerstone of our program in Haiti for the next three years,” said Dan Waddle, senior vice president of NRECA International Programs.
The project fits into plans by the U.S. Agency for International Development and the government of Haiti to rebuild the country through investments in new economic development zones in areas outside Port-au-Prince after the 2010 earthquake.
“One of the lessons learned from the earthquake is that there was too much concentrated in Port-au-Prince in terms of investments, jobs and services, and that rural areas were diminishing in economic activity and population,” said Walsh.
Rural electrification in Caracol has been a major focus, and one in which NRECA has played a big role for the past 18 months. In September, NRECA will finish the Caracol Industrial Park project.
Myk Manon, NRECA Haiti country director, will oversee the three-year project with assistance from David Myers, a former municipal utility manager from Georgia who will move to Caracol in June. The association also has hired Haitian professionals to fill senior management positions: Herve Pierre Louis will be general manager of PPSELD; Regine Vital will oversee customer services; and Herve Laguerre will manage finances and administration.
NRECA International Programs will work in partnership with other agencies on the project. ESD will operate the Caracol plant; the World Council of Credit Unions will manage an initiative that would allow payment of electric bills on mobile devices; and the Cadmus Group will provide expertise on environmental compliance.