La Revolución Cubana: The Green One, That Is
With the historic thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations, global audiences have shifted their attention to Cuba’s future. A U.S. embassy was opened for the first time in half a century in a nation that, until now, had no formal ties with the U.S. As Cuba turns its head to global trends, its government is beginning to consider new and rigorous policies that will forever change the daily lives of Cuban citizens. More specifically, an energy revolution is unfolding on the island.
Only a few years ago, Cuba was constantly experiencing blackouts and suffering from a largely inefficient energy industry. This was the aftermath of Cuba’s ‘Special Period’ in the 1990s, when funding from the Soviet Union dried up. Cuba quickly needed to learn how to sustain itself, especially with energy sources. In 2006, La Revolución Energética, or The Energy Revolution, began. Cuba decided to shift its priorities to fixing its electrical transmissions network to end the blackouts and to using renewable energy for sustainable development. The government plans to increase the amount of electricity produced by renewables to 24% by 2030 from four percent today. To reduce its dependence on fossil fuel imports, Cuba has made the goal of creating wind and solar projects, as well as biomass plants that run on sugar cane.
Cuba Solar is an organization in Cuba that has an objective of promoting renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, and environmental awareness. They point out that “achieving 100% energy self-sufficiency with renewable sources of energy is a challenge for this generation. We can not delay any longer; We can not continue to think about it any more.” Cuba Solar helps with the development and national production of teams that take advantage of renewable energy, specifically training technicians and workers with the objective of achieving a high quality of the island’s products. The organization also helps with projects in the rural areas of Cuba that spread awareness of environmental issues. They teach that the preservation of the environment will help solve social problems, mainly in the education and health sector.
A 2009 study highlighted environmental issues that are prevalent in Cuba: erosion, impoverishment, diminished quality of groundwater and marine waters, changes in biological diversity and loss of ecosystems, and increased air acidity. Cuba will also continue to experience extreme weather events and extreme drought in certain areas. The challenges ahead will require leadership and involvement of all sectors of Cuban society to prepare for the consequences of climate change.
On December 15, 2016, the U.S. government held a session with Cuba to discuss potential collaboration on clean and renewable energy. The Departments of State and Energy co-chaired the first U.S.-Cuba Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Working Group in Washington D.C. Participants exchanged ideas on how the United States and Cuba can work together with renewable energy development. The thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations can potentially bring more necessary investments in Havana’s renewable energy. Cuban representatives also met with delegates from the International Renewable Energy Agency to discuss the energy trajectory of the nation. The consensus was that renewable energy development would ultimately improve energy security for the island.
Ultimately, a shift toward renewable energy production and development will help advance Cuban society and improve its relations with the United States. The Energy Revolution will incentivize all sectors of Cuban society to work together on improving energy efficiency, and will hopefully serve as an example to other nations in Latin America.
The views presented in this piece do not reflect the views of other Arbitror contributors or of Arbitror as a whole.
Photo: "Cuba - Havana - Mar 2014 - The Sunny Side of the Street" by Gareth Williams on Flickr.