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IN THE FIELD


THE OPEC FUND'S ANNUAL AWARD


The OPEC Fund’s Annual Award was introduced in 2006 and comprises a US$100,000 prize to recognize an individual or organization demonstrating excellence in poverty reduction and sustainable development. Bestowing this year’s Annual Award for Development to EarthSpark International will help highlight the urgent need to support Small Island Developing States in addressing these important goals and demonstrates the commitment of the OPEC Fund to supporting developing countries in their pursuit of social, environmental and economic progress.


PHOTO: EarthSpark International PHOTO: EarthSpark International


work with Fanm Vayant Zangle, an agricultural cooperative: EarthSpark has helped them source electric- powered labor-saving devices, such as a corn sheller and a mill. Another current project – open to all, but


a


predominantly involving women in Les Anglais – focuses on helping locals transition from charcoal-based to electric cooking.


With EarthSpark on the frontline of


renewable technology – another sector of interest for the OPEC Fund, which has supported more than 150 related projects to date – it is well-placed to fine-tune the best model for reliable microgrids. Using its smart-meter capabilities allows it to more precisely gauge demand for electricity; crucial when supply is reliant on variable natural sources, such as solar, and whatever can be stored in batteries (the forthcoming grids won’t have diesel backup generators). “If there’s a new thing that EarthSpark is working on to share with the world, it’s figuring out demand-side management in a way that enables 100 percent solar microgrids to maintain very high reliability at a lower cost than using backup diesel generators,” says Archambault. The OPEC Fund has been working in Haiti since its inception in 1976, and


has approved approximately US$100 million for about 50 development operations. Energy – with its galvanizing effect on agriculture, and on water and sanitation – remains key for development there. However, the government’s interest is currently also being drawn towards the agricultural sector, which has withstood the effects of the pandemic better than others; the OPEC Fund is negotiating funding for a large-scale irrigation project in the south of Haiti. But the country – the poorest in


the western hemisphere, where half the population live on less than US$1 a day, and with turbulent governance – remains a challenging environment in which to operate. Its vulnerability to natural disasters such as the devastating 2010 earthquake and 2015 Hurricane Matthew is especially problematic, says Natalia Salazar, the OPEC Fund’s Country Manager for Haiti: “What they cause is delays. Our project implementation average worldwide is seven years, but in Haiti it can take over 10. And in that time, you might have three different governments.” Even with the government’s interest in the energy sector, and broad support for microgrids, Archambault says the lack of a legal and regulatory


framework in Haiti makes it slow-going for initiatives such as EarthSpark’s. There was no electricity regulator when it was developing the Les Anglais grid; the local municipality had to grant the right to build the system. Tiburon’s is the new regulatory body’s first official microgrid concession. Partly because of such obstacles, the OPEC Fund has yet to fund private- sector companies in Haiti. But its work with the public sector is vital for the capacity-building that will eventually allow this to happen – especially in the country’s poorer south. “It shows that there’s a will,” says Salazar. “By supporting rural areas, you can support a whole community, you can lift people out of poverty, and you can provide know-how and solutions to the government.” The OPEC Fund award is testament


to what EarthSpark has contributed so far. In a matter of months, ice-cold drinks are set to clink under microgrid- powered lights at the launch of the next EarthSpark microgrid, whetting the appetite for all this can bring. Archambault says it again: “There really is this idea that Les Anglais proved what was possible. We’ve been ‘de- risking by doing’ here by innovating, by pushing forward, by working together. Now it’s time to scale up.”


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PHOTO: EarthSpark International


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