More than 40% of the electricity generation capacity in Cuba is small-scale distributed plant. This is among the highest proportions in the world, although around half are diesel generators. The country is making progress towards its goal of a ‘new energy paradigm’ writes Mario Alberto Arrastía Avila.
Distributed generation in Cuba
part of atransition towards a new energy paradigm
uba depends on fossil fuels to generate electricity and the country consumes 7.6 million tons of oil a year. Before 1959, the Cuban Electric Power Industry was controlled by foreign capital. The process of nationalization carried out by the Cuban Government in the early 1960s resulted in an oil blockade, thus forcing the country to import oil from the formerSoviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, the impact on the Cuban economy was devastating, with Cuba’s oil consumption falling by 20% in only two years. The effect of this was felt immediately across all sectors; transport, industry and agriculture virtually collapsed. Blackouts lasting up to 16 hours became a common issue. Renewable energy technologies began to be deployed in Cuba atthe end of the 19th century. There were applications of hydroelectricity, solar water heating, solar drying of coffee, cocoa, and herbal medicines, as well as water pumping with wind energy. The installation, in 1930, of the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plant in the Bay of Matanzas (22 kW), was an historical event. In the second half of the 20th century, the country began thequalification of specialized human capital, and scientific research into solar cells, solar dryers, solar water heaters and wind energy was conducted. Today the country is implementing renewable energy technology application projects at national scale. The Cuban Electricity Saving Programme and the Energy Saving Programme of the Ministry of Education (PAEME) were launched in 1997. Both programmes have hadgood results in demand side management, energy efficiency and
Diesel generator cluster in Pinar del Rio. Credit: Pablo Massip Ginestá
Losses 16.8% Other sectors 16.6%
Industry 26.7% Construction 0.5% Households 35% Agriculture 1.7% Transport 0.6% Commerce 2.3%
Figure 1. Electricity consumption per sector in Cuba
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Distributed generation in Cuba
Table 1. Comparative data on energy in Cuba
Energy and social data Population (million of inhabitants) Power installed (MW) Access to electricity (%) Gross electricity generation (GWh) Specific fuel consumption (g/kWh) Total of consumers Electricity consumption (kWh) 1958 5.6 397 56 2,550 399 772,000 377 2007 11.4 5,861 96 16,694 274 3,200,0001486
Peak plants Hydro (diesel) 80 61
Wind PV 5.4 2.57
Oil-ﬁred power stations 2298
DG (diesel) 1280 DG (fuel oil) 540 DG (back up) 690.2
energy education. Nevertheless, during the last five years, frequent interruptions in old oil-fired power stations, which only guaranteed an average availability of 60%, worsened with the impact of hurricanes on the high-voltage transmission lines.All the above mentioned affected the Cuban economy and resulted in an energy crisis. The solution was an initiative called the Energy Revolution of Cuba.
THE CUBAN ENERGY REVOLUTION
Gas-ﬁred power stations 375 Figure 2. Power installed capacity in Cuba by technology in MW (2007)
The Energy Revolution of Cuba is a radical change in the way the country transforms and uses energycarriers, technologies and sources. In practical terms, the Energy Revolution of Cuba has been the way out of the energy crisis suffered by Cuba during the period 2003–2005, but the strategy will allow the transition of the country towards a New Energy Paradigm. The main goals of the Cuban Energy Revolution are to guarantee sustainable development and the economic and energy invulnerability of...