Guest blog by Analiese Tisa, Marketing & Communications Intern, Beneficial Returns
Photo: Members of Fanm Vayant, an agricultural women’s cooperative in Les Anglais, Haiti, pictured with an electric-powered machine for agricultural processing that they adopted upon receiving electricity through EarthSpark, a Miller Center alum.
In Haiti, less than half of the population has access to electricity, making it the most energy-poor country in the Western hemisphere. The situation is especially pronounced in rural areas where electrification rates are below 15%. Rural households routinely spend up to $20 a month for candles, kerosene, and charcoal — a steep price for energy that is damaging to the environment and human health. With a vision to meet the needs of the rural poor and expand clean energy access, EarthSpark was founded in 2009.
Les Anglais, a coastal town in Haiti, is home to 27,000 people. It is also the first town with a microgrid system. When EarthSpark first started working in Les Anglais, it provided small household solar lights and efficient cookstoves as an alternative to candles, kerosene, and charcoal. In 2009 EarthSpark connected 14 people to the grid; by 2015, it had expanded its reach to over 2,000. Community members shared their desire for higher levels of cost-efficient power to energize not just homes but also businesses. These conversations sparked the creation of microgrids (community-sized electricity systems) which cut energy costs from 10% to only 2% of household income.
EarthSpark, a 2012 and 2018 Miller Center graduate, builds businesses to solve energy poverty. Since its inception, EarthSpark has brought clean energy to over 4,000 Haitians and launched two companies that each tackle a specific aspect of energy access. SparkMeter is a smart meter company that provides microgrid technology and services in over 25 countries. Enèji Pwòp (“Clean Energy” in Haitian Creole) brings solar energy to Haitian communities without access to the national grid and currently operates in the towns of Les Anglais and Tiburon. Under the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, both companies work toward achieving SDG 7: “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.”
EarthSpark prides itself on taking a human-centered approach by deeply assessing customers’ energy service needs and opportunities. It follows a model of “business accompaniment,” where the EarthSpark team works alongside businesses to unlock and expand their economic opportunities with the arrival of electricity. Additionally, EarthSpark takes a “feminist electrification” approach to infrastructure planning, ensuring that women’s voices, especially female business owners, are central throughout the planning and implementation of the electrification process.
Truss Fund’s recent $150,000 loan to EarthSpark will tide the enterprise over until it receives a substantial award from Green Climate Fund and other committed grants. This means the enterprise can continue to operate at full capacity and bring electricity to more Haitians without delay. Its long-term goal is to scale from two to 24 grids across Haiti. EarthSpark aims to bring reliable, high-quality electricity to over 80,000 people in the next four years.
This article originally appeared in the Truss Fund 2.0 Quarterly Update, April 2022.
The Truss Fund was created by Miller Center and Beneficial Returns, which manages the fund. It provides emergency loans of up to $150,000 to Miller Center social enterprise alumni that are employing market-driven solutions to end global poverty and protect the planet.