By Bobb Rousseau
While in other countries, electricity is a basic and social good; in Haiti, it is a high-end luxury commodity where poor management of Haiti’s electricity (EDH) and a disproportionate and unfair delivery price policy handicap the economy, the healthcare and the law enforcement sectors. More electricity produced and delivered by a government, cheaper the price per kilowatt hour and more economic opportunities for the population.
Governments produce or privatize the production and the sale of electricity in large quantities, not only to connect communities, but also to increase their budget by selling it to industries, businesses and residents. The more households in a country has, the more energy has to be produced and the more energy a country produces, the higher its budget, the more efficient its education system and safer its streets.
Electricity is delivered to three different sectors, which are industrial, commercial and residential. Since the two main sectors are peak consumers, they pay less per kilowatt hour while residents pay more. However, electricity is so affordable in these countries, less than 25 cents per kilowatt hour on average, that residents do not feel the burden. Despite this inverted cost system the industrial and commercial sectors benefit, in addition to taxes, they consume so much that they end up paying much more than all the households combined. Electricity inverted price policy refers to the process of governments dissecting, evaluating and assigning prices to consumers based on usage while focusing on an economy of scale.
Low energy production, mismanagement of EDH, dependence of the ANARSE on the United Nations, and unfair kilowatt-hour cost policy are one of the main causes of the country’s economic degradation. Whatever the country, the performance of electricity and that of the economy are so closely linked that the reliability and affordability of the former lead to the sustainability of the latter.
Thus, countries invest billions in research and development, human and technological resources and supply chains to establish reliable network structures to connect communities and bring economic value to their treasury. In Haiti, the process is detrimental as the industrial and commercial sectors do not use EDH due to its unreliability and unavailability. Therefore, EDH only produces electricity for residents who cannot afford to pay even with the hefty government subsidy.
Haitian companies, even a borlette bank, supply their own energy source, primarily renewable energy produced by solar panels and inverters connected to batteries as well as backed up by generators to charge the batteries. Needless to say that businesses in Haiti are powered by at least two sources of energy with that of EDH being a third option on which businessmen and entrepreneurs do not rely. The government is fragmenting the energy system instead of developing a national strategy to boost its networks through the construction and modernization of its transmission and distribution lines. The policy of building micro-grids or promoting renewable energies is counterproductive because of the cost to build such infrastructures and deploying connected services.
The country faces a continual and steep decline in energy production, which in turn increases poverty, costs and power outages. Haiti, with all the funds that it receives from the international community, with all the microgrids that it is preparing to build in various territorial communities far from Port-au-Prince and with all the skills of ANARSE, is far from achieving economies of scale to turn electricity into a social good instead of a campaign promise.
If it took 70 years for the United States and 100 years for the Dominican Republic to electrify their entire territory, it is absurd, even with a micro-grid per municipality, that the Haitian government thinks it can electrify the whole country in 24 months.
Taking into account that the Haitian government continues to reject the diaspora’s plan to connect Haitian communities with reliable and affordable electricity, it is evident that the government wants to continue to reign in the blackout and that it does not care about the degrading state of the economy, the rise of insecurity, and the lack of healthcare access.
Dr. Bobb Rousseau is a Law and Public Policy and Local Government Management expert and a regular contributor to The Haitian Times.