“El periódico ha de estar siempre como los correos antiguos, con el caballo enjaezado, la fusta en la mano y la espuela en el tacón.  Debe desobedecer los apetitos del bien personal y atender imparcialmente al bien público”.
José Martí

Could Renewable Energies Involve Everyone in Cuba?


Solar panels in Cuba. Photo: artemisadiario.cu

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.

Cuba necesita acelerar el cambio de matriz energética ante la posibilidad de que el chavismo pierda el gobierno de Venezuela y desaparezca el intercambio de médicos por petróleo.

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.

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.

Las reservas petroleras de Cuba apenas alcanzan para el 30% de sus necesidades internas y además se agotan. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz

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

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.

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.

En Cuba muchos campesinos ganan lo suficiente como para invertir en energías renovables para sus fincas si el gobierno permitiera la libre importación y venta de estos equipos. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz

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

Translation: Havana Times

About Fernando Ravsberg

Nacido en Uruguay, corresponsal de Público en Cuba y profesor del post grado de “Información internacional y países del Sur” de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Fue periodista de BBC Mundo, Telemundo de EEUU, Radio Nacional de Suecia y TV Azteca de México. Autor de 3 libros, El Rompecabezas Cubano, Reportajes de Guerra y Retratos.


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