The Islamic Post Blog


Cuba Leads Energy Revolution by Khalida
May 10, 2009, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, May Volume I - 2009 | Tags:

By Safiyah Abdul Khafidh

Islamic Post Staff Writer

(IP) –The astonishing progress Cuba has made in organic agriculture, urban gardens, biodiversity, natural and traditional medicine has earned it the recognition of being the only country in the world that has achieved sustainable development. The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet 2006 Report assessed sustainable development using the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) and the ecological footprint. The HDI is calculated based on life expectancy, literacy, educational levels and per capita GDP, while the ecological footprint measures a country’s use of its natural resources and effects on the ecosystem or demand on the biosphere. According to the above 2006 report, Cuba is at the top of the list of countries worldwide, challenging even the US with its impressive statistics from the United Nations HDI 2007/2008 REPORT: 77.7 in life expectancy, 99.8 in literacy, a rate of 6 in infant mortality per 1000 live births and 9.8 on public expenditure on education (%GDP) as compared to the US 77.9, 99, 6 and 5.9, respectively. The same report assesses Cuba’s energy consumption to be one eight of that in the US. Leading the way in helping Cuba perfect its level of sustainability is its two year old energy revolution, focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The uniqueness of the Cubans approach lies in their integration of technical, social, educational and economic measures. It has five main aspects: energy efficiency and conservation, implementing more renewable energy technologies, increasing the efficiency and availability of the national electric grid, more exploration and production of gas and oil and cooperating internationally.
In tackling the problem of energy efficiency, Cuba realized the answer was not necessarily in finding more ways of generating energy but in decreasing the demand for energy. It set about distributing, free of charge, over nine million compact fluorescent light bulbs, replacing the less efficient incandescent bulbs, making Cuba the first country in the world to phase out the tungsten filament bulbs. People were discouraged from cooking with kerosene and purchased electrical cooking appliances like rice cookers and pressure cookers. Within the two years of the energy revolution, Cubans have replaced nearly two million refrigerators, over one million fans, 182,000 air conditioners and 260,000 water pumps with more energy efficient appliances.
Their primary conservation measure employs the use of a new residential electrical tariff. Those using less than 100 kWh (kilowatt hours) a month pay only a fraction of a cent per kWh. Consumers increasing their usage of 50 kWh a month pay a much higher rate, while those using over 300 kWh a month pay 1.30 pesos per kWh (5.4 US cents). The media, by means of billboards, newspaper articles and a weekly television program dedicated to energy concerns, is also an effective tool used in the energy revolution.
Energy education has been the most cost effective measure that Cuba utilizes in transforming its energy program. The Ministry of Education implements a national energy education program aimed at teaching students, teachers, workers, families and communities about energy efficiency and conservation, as well as renewable sources of energy. Teresa Palenzuela, an energy saving program specialist said, “If we begin to insist on (energy efficiency) at the preschool age, we are creating a conduct for life.” In schools, the energy theme is deeply integrated into the curriculum, crossing many disciplines. The national energy program hosts energy festivals, targeting students to express their thoughts on energy through songs, poetry and theater. In each of the schools, the best energy efficient projects go to the festival at the municipal level, then moving on to the provincial and finally to the national level. At the national level, it is so popular that people line up for blocks to enter. Yet, there are no winners. The students just share their knowledge and experiences.
The use of wind and solar energy is expanding. One hundred wind measuring stations are being installed and two new wind farms have been built and under construction is Cuba’s first grid connected 100 kWh solar electric plant. All schools, health clinics and social centers in rural areas were electrified with solar energy. Currently, 2,364 of the solar electric systems are on rural schools, making lights, educational television and computers available to every student in the country.
Cuba is getting rid of its very old, centralized, inefficient electrical grid and building towards distributed generation of electricity, which allows for diversity of electrical sources. In 2006, Cuba eliminated blackouts by installing 1,854 diesel and fuel oil micro-electrical plants across the country. Also installed were 4000 emergency backup systems to facilities such as hospitals, schools, food production centers and sites critical to the country’s economy. They also upgraded the electrical transmission network. The residue left over after sugar cane is processed, called bagasse, is burned and turned into energy to power the sugar plants as well as feed the electrical grid. Cuba does not support using food crops for fuel while millions suffer hunger. However there are some liquid biofuels projects, one in particular involving the use of non edible oil.
Finally, mention must be made of Cuba’s social workers or “trabajadores sociales,” founded by Fidel Castro who calls them “Doctors of the Soul,” and the role they are playing in the energy revolution. These are youths, whose task is to bring social justice in various aspects such as labor, education, culture, sports and the environment. Thirteen thousand of them have visited homes, facilities and businesses replacing light bulbs, teaching people how to use their new energy efficient appliances and educating on energy conservation. They also work in the bus system and the sugarcane harvest to achieve more energy efficiency. Under the Bolivian Alternative for the Americas, they travel to other countries assisting with the energy crises.
‘We need a global energy revolution,” says Mario Alberto Arrastia Avila, a Cubaenergia expert. “But in order for this to happen we also need a revolution in consciousness. Cuba has undertaken its own path towards a new energy paradigm, applying concepts like distributed energy, efficiency, education, energy solidarity and the gradual solarization off the country.”

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Good website,, Will come back soon!

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