secured US$10 million from the Green Climate Fund). In international terms, interest in the potential of microgrid technology to address energy poverty is growing: there are 6,610 such projects in 2020 (up from 4,475 in 2019), and the microgrid sector is expected to be worth US$47.4 billion by 2025 (it’s currently worth US$28.6 billion). Les Anglais is at the forefront of this boom. The smart meter that developed out of the project now has its own separate company, SparkMeter, which has sold over 100,000 meters in more than 25 countries. EarthSpark is a perfect example of the kind of dynamic local partnership the OPEC Fund seeks out in its mission to help develop partner countries. Since the fund was created in 1976, it has approved loans and donations of more than US$25 billion in sustainable development commitments – to both public entities and private sector partners.

But finding the right partners to

achieve development goals in a given country can be challenging. They have to tick specific boxes, as Khalid Khadduri, the OPEC Fund’s Senior Private Sector Investment Manager, explains: “We want to make sure there’s that developmental impact in aligning with what we’re trying to support as an institution, socio-economically and in supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But because you’re taking private-sector risks, there are a lot of other factors you need to look into: the commercial, technical and financial viability, as well


as doing the social and environmental due diligence on a project.” Awarding grants to non-profits and non-governmental organizations is another avenue if the private sector can’t fulfil these requirements for a given territory. Prior to the award, the OPEC Fund had also provided a US$350,000 grant to EarthSpark to develop the second Tiburon grid; with an initial phase producing solar lanterns, and then the microgrid, in Les Anglais, the organization had already demonstrated the ways in which it fulfilled the OPEC Fund’s development brief. Financial viability was something EarthSpark was “clear-eyed” about from the start, says Archambault. Charging for energy meant challenging Haiti’s culture of non-payment for electricity – with significant amounts of theft from the official grid.

There’s no secret sauce there. It’s just engaging women authentically throughout the entire process of pre-development, development and operations.

Allison Archambault, President, EarthSpark

But EarthSpark – enabled by the SparkMeter technology it launched – allows grid users in Les Anglais to prepay, buying electricity credits in small quantities as needed. “It was fundamentally respectful of our customers, instead of surprising them with a bill a month after they consumed the electricity. It just didn’t make sense in those markets,” she says. The upside is that payment efficiency is quite high, theft is low, and many households now connected to the grid are saving up to 80 percent on what they had previously been spending on other means of lighting, phone charging, and other basic energy services. The Les Anglais microgrid has also energized the local economy, an important part of the OPEC Fund’s mandate to support small- and medium-sized enterprises. No longer relying on diesel-run generators has reduced the cost of everyday business tasks – such as lighting and charging phones – that rely on electricity. And with refrigeration now possible, selling cold drinks has become a popular retail option in the town. Entrepreneurs from carpenters to ice cream confectioners can now plug in to the reliable power. The concept of “feminist electrification” – EarthSpark’s commitment to this won a UN award in 2018 – is central to the development process. “There’s no secret sauce there,” says Archambault. “It’s just engaging women authentically throughout the entire process of pre-development, development and operations.” She highlights outreach


PHOTO: EarthSpark International

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