| Sustainable energy News - No. 8 March 1995 |
The technical editor of Sustainable Energy News, Lars Yde, visited Cuba recently.
On his return, he gave the following interview to Mors Folkeblads Ugeavis, a local Danish newspaper:
- What is your view of the third-world countries like Cuba?
- High energy prices, supply problems, trade sanctions, and political boycotts always hit third-world countries the hardest. Due to a vulnerable and weak economy and an outdated production infrastructure, third-world countries have few feasible options that will lead to a favourable standard of living for their people.
Nevertheless, the possibilities exist - from Denmark, among others, and more specifically, from the Folkecenter for Renewabic Energy.
- What can the Folkecenter for Renewable Energy do?
- Recently a Folkecenter delegation visited Cuba to assist in investigating the possibilities of establishing several small windmills to produce electricity for the boarding schools in Cuba. Each boarding school has about
500 pupils ranging in age from 15 to 20 years old.
The Folkecenter is one of the members of the international consortium GREECA - Global Renewable Energy and Ecology Centres for Action. Folkecenter represents Denmark in the consortium, which also includes centres located in Cuba, Tanzania, India, and China.
The secretariat is managed by the Folkecenter, which has employed the Indian professor T.K. Moulik as coordinator. The aim of the visit was partly to obtain the right contacts and partly to obtain means for renewable energy projects.
Each country prepares a project proposal and then GREECA applies for financial support to the project. When it concerns Cuba, it is very difficult, as the country has been affected by the USA's trade sanctions for more than a generation. Further, Cuba has only bilateral agreements with countries like Canada and Mongolia.
During my visit to Cuba, I participated in meetings with staff members of the embassies of the countries mentioned and with representatives from the UN organisations UNDP and FAO.
- How can renewable energy solve the problems of Cuba?
- The retraining and retooling of a society to have a certain percentage of its electricity produced from renewable energy sources ought to be timed such that first comprehensive energy conservation programmes have been put into operation to reduce the consumption of electricity produced from fossil fuels such as coal or oil. I emphasize, that before the investments in renewable energy technologies are made, it is necessary to reduce the consumption of energy as much as possible. And this song has to be sung every time.
As an example, in the late 70's the houses in Denmark were insulated. The radiators were equipped with thermostat valves and a lot of other initiatives were made. Not till then development of solar heat and windpower technologies were done. And the same has to be done in the thirdworld countries before considerable investments in alternative energy technologies are made. This is the philosophy to be used at an extension of renewable energy. I trust that the project in Cuba can be realized regardless of the country's decline caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Cuba has already been forced to reduce almost all activities. Construction work has stopped and the import of oil has been reduced by 90%. But the population has a high level of education. While the Soviet Union was still intact, preparations were made for a factory that should produce chips for the computer industry. This project, however, has stopped and attempts are being made to change the plans so that the factory can produce solar cells instead.
Cuba is not a typical developing country, and there is no doubt that, in the long run the Cuban industry easily will be able to manage to manufacture the components that must be used for production of renewable energy, according to my assessment. Vestas, the Danish manufacturer of windiurbines, has already visited Cuba.