Political will is not enough, nor is clarity about what must be done, evidenced in the regulatory framework created to facilitate Cuba's transition to an energy profile based on greater use of renewable resources. It is imperative that the consciousness of authorities and the people be raised, so that this change is understood as a critical element in our strategy for sustainable development.
The country has taken important steps toward meeting this ambitious goal, but there is much to be done, and more than a few challenges to be overcome. To better understand the situation, Granma spoke with Luis Hilario Bérriz Pérez PhD, president of the state enterprise Cubasolar, who believes, "We can become a leader in terms of renewable resources, as we are in many other areas."
Before focusing on the issue of renewable resources, could you comment on some of the strengths of our energy policy.
The national energy policy has changed, I would even say radically, and one of the events that showed this was Irma. In the wake of the hurricane, the country was left at zero in terms of electrical generation. This is the first time that has happened. But by a week later, Havana had reestablished 95% of its service, and the country had practically 100% of its electricity within a month.
This can sometimes be perceived as normal, something we're used to. But we can understand the difference when we look at Puerto Rico, since despite the United States being one of the world's most powerful empires, the island still has not recovered in terms of energy, since Hurricane Maria hit. This reflects several issues and the first is, without a doubt, the social system. This happens here because we have demonstrated that we have a highly resilient energy policy, based essentially on distributed generating that lends itself to a very rapid recovery.
Beyond this undeniable reality, we know that demand for energy in Cuba is growing, making clear the need to search for alternatives, such as the use of natural gas, biogas, and renewable resources, to ensure the country's economic sustainability…
That's right. In 2017, 58% of energy use was concentrated in the residential sector, and moreover, the greatest portion of this energy was used for cooking and refrigeration. Some experiments and statistical analysis have shown that, for example, expanding sales of bottled gas could allow for a reduction in the maximum demand of around 360 MW.
Another very interesting fact is that, Cuba's territory, of about 111,000 square kilometers, receives solar radiation equivalent o the energy produced by 50 million tons of oil, everyday. That is, the solar radiation Cuba receives in a single day, is greater - in its energy value - than all the oil consumed in five years. Imagine the impact, if we were able to take advantage of this incredible potential, to use increasingly more of our own energy resources.
The estimated projection is that by 2030, renewable resources will be used to generate 24% of the country's electricity, and these could provide for 60% of the growth in consumption.
Among the terms used in relation to the issue is making our homes and state institutions "energy-plus" sites. What does that mean?
To explain this aspect, we must refer to Decree-Law 345, "On the development of renewable resources and efficient use of energy." This regulatory framework allows for something I would call a revolution within our Energy Revolution. To date we have been thinking about consumption, and this decree is telling us that we can become producers of energy, that the electric company can buy the energy we are able to produce.
Of course, to do this, knowledge and resources are indispensable. For example, if I want to have hot water in my house, using solar energy, either I need a heater, or I need resources and information to make a heater. Or if I want to become an energy producer, I need a photovoltaic panel. Therefore, another big challenge is the production of these elements by our national industry.
This decree also allows for the gradual elimination of obstacles and customs tariffs on importing equipment that operates with renewable resources, or resources for their construction.
A change of mentality, and lots of information, are very much needed, because we have learned to protect ourselves from the sun and use oil, but it's time to change this behavior and take advantage of the infinite possibilities of solar energy.
But using the energy is not enough, it must be collected and stored, right?
Storage is an indispensable element if we want to become a country of producers and not of net consumers. For example, if you ask most local authorities about the energy they have at their disposal, they talk to you about the national plan, what is allocated to them, but this what is given to them, not what they have. The energy you really have at your disposal is that you have managed to accumulate.
Accumulation must be based on the final use. If you need water, you need to collect water. If you need light, you need to collect and store electricity.
To get an idea of what this means, we could explain to people that the radiation their houses receive, on just one square meter of their roof, is equivalent to their home's entire monthly consumption. This is where the local factor comes into play, because this process must take place at your house, at mine…
Considering the principles of sustainable development, could we say that it has a direct relationship to our socialist social system?
I use a formula that for me is the answer to that question: Renewable Energy Sources + Accumulation of Energy + Socialism = Sustainable Development. Anyone can talk about sustainable development, but it is not a capitalist concept. It is a concept that necessarily involves human solidarity, in which the social being is always placed above money.
- Article 6. The production of equipment, means, and replacement parts for the development of renewable sources of energy, and those needed to increase efficiency in the use of electrical energy and fuel, constitutes a strategic objective for the nation's industry.
- Article 7. New construction undertaken as part of investment projects, will use architectural designs that contribute to energy savings, in accordance with what has been established in current legislation.
- Article 8. Individuals and incorporated entities can acquire equipment using renewable energy sources and others that allow the efficient use of energy at moderate prices, or through bank loans, in accordance with principles established in current legislation for the granting of credit.
- Article 10.1. Incorporated entities which import raw materials, components, parts, pieces, equipment, and accessories for the execution of an investment projects, or which fabricate equipment, devices, and spare parts for the use of renewable energy sources, will enjoy tariff exemptions, following procedures established by the Ministry of Finances and Prices.
- Article 15.1. The Ministry of Energy and Mines will promote the production of energy by consumers, including the residential sector, on the basis of technologies that take advantage of renewable energy sources to allow for self sufficiency and sales of any surplus to the national electric grid.
- Article 15.2. The Electric Union will buy all electricity generated with renewable sources of energy produced by independent producers, as long as established technical norms are observed.