The OPEC Fund has presented its 2020 Annual Award for Development to EarthSpark International, Haiti, in recognition of its innovative approach to energy access and climate change mitigation. Read about the EarthSpark story below…


n 2008, a group of Haitian immigrants living in the US emailed a US cleantech

entrepreneur with a proposal: to build a wind turbine to power streetlights in Les Anglais, the small town they came from on the Caribbean country’s south coast. Seven years later, through EarthSpark

International, the non-profit organization created as a result, Les Anglais had more than streetlights. It had Haiti’s first privately operated microgrid, supplying solar-generated electricity to townsfolk who had previously used kerosene, candles and charcoal to meet their energy needs. A second grid opened in the nearby town of Tiburon last year. This mission to solve energy poverty in rural Haiti – where only 15 percent of households are connected to the official grid – is why EarthSpark has been chosen to receive the OPEC Fund for International Development Annual Award for 2020, with a US$100,000 prize. Les Anglais has changed beyond

recognition. Its microgrid – providing 93 kWp of photovoltaic capacity – now serves 493 connections, bringing electricity to more than 2,000 people. Children no longer have to study under streetlights. It is now safer to fetch water late at night from wells (Les Anglais has no piped water). In spite of many recent national challenges, compared to pre- grid, the town has a new lease of life, says Wendy Sanassee, Director of EarthSpark’s Haiti operations: “People can have cold drinks. People can watch TV shows in the evening, listen to the radio. Businesses have new machinery. We have restaurants now in Les Anglais. It’s very lively. It’s easier for food vendors to operate at night because customers are going to come [if the streets are lit].” Beyond these material signs of

progress was a subtle psychological shift, which EarthSpark’s President, Allison Archambault, noticed when the grid was

switched off during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. “We were hearing from the community that, even without electricity, the grid arriving had changed their sense of self: ‘We are a community that is a leader, a pioneer, and we know we can do things.’” Les Anglais is certainly that, in both the local and the global sense. EarthSpark aims to build 22 more microgrids across Haiti by 2024 to revolutionize energy access in the country; the prize money from the OPEC Fund award will fund core operations as the organization raises the US$40 million needed to do so (it has just

We were hearing from the community that the grid had changed their sense of self: ‘We are a community that is a leader, a pioneer, and we know we can do things'.

Allison Archambault, President, EarthSpark

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PHOTO: EarthSpark International

PHOTO: EarthSpark International

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