Political Prisoners of the Empire  MIAMI 5     

     

C U B A

Havana. November 11, 2014

Opening the way to modernization

Efficient energy generation is one of the motors driving structural changes in the Cuban economy, with the implementation of the Guidelines approved at the Sixth Party Congress.

In other words, this area is the basis on which all other planned transformations must rest, thus this sector must develop ahead of time as part of this process of implementation.

    

Cuba currently produces 96% of its electricity through the use of fossil fuels. This statistic reveals that this is an economy highly dependent on imports with expensive production costs.  For this reason, the Council of Ministers approved the Future Development of Renewable Energy Sources and the Efficient Use of Energy Policy on June 21, drawn up by the Governmental Commission charged with this task and responsible for exploiting the full potential of the country’s renewable energy sources.

The policy is designed to modify Cuba’s energy matrix, as a solution to one of the economy’s structural problems, highlighted on various occasions by Marino Murillo Jorge, head of the Guidelines Implementation and Development Commission.  Although generating electricity via fossil fuels incurs less investment costs, the operational expenses are high; meanwhile with regards to Renewable Energy Sources (RES) the situation is the opposite, with significantly lower costs per kilowatt generated.

According to the results of the most recent National Assembly session, more than 3.5 billion dollars will be invested into RES development over the next 15 years; with the aim of ensuring energy independence; guaranteeing sustainability over time and a platform on which all future projects may rest and contributing to protecting the environment, among others factors.

SUGAR CANE BIOMASS, WIND, SOLAR AND HYDROPOWER

Rosell Guerra Campaña, director of renewable energy at the Ministry of Energy and Mines, stated that “thermal electric plants are inefficient, given the high levels of fuel they consume which directly influences the generation cost per kilowatt, affecting the competitively of the domestic economy’s products and services.”

In addition, the director emphasized that in accordance with the policy, sugar cane residual biomass, forestall biomass, wind, solar and hydropower using dams and canals, will be prioritized in order to generate electricity. He explained that “electricity generated from sugar cane biomass is a fundamental source of energy for the National Electric System (SEN), given that the fuel used is the residual sugar cane pulp which can be stored for use when necessary, which isn’t possible with other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which are dependant on the seasons of the year, the time of day and meteorological conditions.”

Guerra Campaña added that this form of electricity, generated by 19 bioelectric facilities which will be installed in sugar cane processing plants, “maintains the technical parameters which the SEN requires in order to guarantee, under normal operational conditions, that a consistent and stable supply of electricity reaches consumers, a fundamental factor in the quality of electricity services, and therefore this energy can operate in a similar way to thermoelectric plants, avoiding further investments in these, which use fossil fuels to generate electricity.”

In regards to wind energy, the country currently has four wind farms producing a total of 11,700 kilowatts of power. According to the director, since 2005, for more than three years, a project was carried out to research and identify the possibilities for Cuban wind energy, which included the installation of a network of 88 automatic wind measurement stations at heights of up to 50 meters in 23 areas across the country and a network of 12 meteorological reference stations, with measurements of up to 100 meter heights.

The power of solar energy recorded in the country is approximately five kilowatts per square meter per day. From 2013 to date, eight photovoltaic solar parks (PSFV) have been built equipped to generate a total of 12,000 kilowatts, while in 2014 work is underway on the construction of seven new parks with a potential to generate 10,000 kilowatts. In addition, Guerra Cam­paña reported that as part of the policy, PSFVs producing 700,000 will be installed and connected to the SEN, while research into the exploitation of this energy source from solar panels on warehouses, storage units, refrigeration installations and workshops is also being carried out.

In regards to hydroelectric power, sourced from damns, bypasses, canals, water reserves, 74 small hydroelectric plants are scheduled to be constructed, capable of generating over 56,000 kilowatts. There are currently 163 small plants in the country, with an energy potential of 65,000 kilowatts, producing 127 million kilowatts annually and benefiting more than 8,400 homes in rural areas.

In this sense, and considering the breadth of the policy, we enquired as to what the rate of usage of RES in the current low voltage zones will be, to which the director responded that the generation of electricity through RES is a continuation of the Energy Revolution initiated in the country in 2005, in particular the development of distributed energy, whose positive impacts range from raising the quality of the energy provided to consumers and reducing distribution losses in the electricity networks, to integrating microsystems to supply energy in the case of meteorological events which can affect the SEN.

BIOGAS AND FORESTAL BIOMASS

As part of the diversification of the country’s energy system through the new Renewable Energy Sources policy, Cuba is not only focusing its actions on sugarcane biomass, wind, solar and hydropower. There are currently 800 biogas plants in the country, linked to pork production in the farming sector. In 2014, twelve 70 cubic meter plants will be built with locally sourced materials in state facilities and another 1,000 smaller plants by individual producers, while more than 500 organic waste dispensers - donated to the country as part of the UN World Environmental Program – are currently being installed.

Development programs for pork, cattle and poultry production also provide important quantities of organic waste, in addition to the significant volumes of waste produced by the food and sugar industries, amounting to more than 490 million cubic meters.

According to Guerra Campaña, in all these cases, the gas produced is primarily used in the production of animal feed and housing.

In this way, the director stated, if the waste from poultry and industrial production is exploited, it will be possible to prevent the contamination of rivers, bays and natural drainage systems; a matter of vital importance which was considered when the policy was drawn up. In light of this and with the aim of contributing to the country’s need to save energy, the Ministry of Agriculture has been researching the feasibility of installing 36 industrial biogas plants in state pig farms across the island, each containing more than 3,500 animals.

Forestall biomass, is a multi-faceted resource used for various ends. Approximately 17,000 kilowatts can be generated by the waste produced from the country’s sawmills, during the wood production and forest sanitation processes.

Currently being considered – reported Guerra Campa­ña – is the installation of electric plants able to generate 2,000 kilowatts in the Pons and Ma­curije sawmills, both located in Pinar del Río, through the use of residue produced by these establishments, forestall management and the marabu (weed) which grows in areas close to the mills.

INSIDE HOMES AND WORKPLACES

Although the generation of electricity through RES is beneficial to our economy, saving and increasing energy efficiency will be top priorities for both the production and residential sectors.

According to the specialist, inside the home “the use of more efficient electronic devices will reduce electricity consumption in homes; likewise, devices which use RES, will replace those which use electricity generated by the Electric Union with fossil fuels, the combination of both represents a saving and economic benefit for families.”

For example, heating water with solar energy reduces both electricity and fossil fuel consumption. In regards to personal savings, it is not the same to heat up water with electricity or gas, as it is with this alternative. The potential savings and benefit to the family finances increase with the use of solar energy. Among the advantages the comfort which it provides to households must also be mentioned. 

Guerra Campaña added that within the programs set out until 2030, are the installation of 100,000 solar heaters in homes and more than 33,000 in factories, hotels, hospitals and other institutions which use hot water. In accordance with this strategy, the director stated that also scheduled is the gradual introduction of heaters, photovoltaic solar panels and electric cookers available to purchase, all at affordable prices and obtainable on credit, in addition to the sale of LED lamps.

He commented that two million small electric ovens should be replaced by electric induction cookers, which are 30% more efficient. That is to say, they consume a lot less energy. LED lighting works in a similar way, as it is 50% more efficient both in the residential and public lighting sector, than traditional light sources. In regards to these properties Guerra explained, “a program has been designed for the installation of 13 million nine watt LED tube lights to replace 18 watt light bulbs in homes, providing the same illumination, and the use of 250,000 LED lights in public lighting”.

Regarding the savings in the production and services sector, for example, there exists enormous potential in the technological heating of water in the pharmaceutical, food and tourism industries, to name just a few. Meanwhile, efforts are being made in the area of efficiency, through the use of more energy efficient devices and the RES, which have the potential to make products more competitive and reduce costs. 

THE SCOPE

The increased use of the RES and the efficient use of energy are as comprehensive and transversal as the main aims of the country’s long term development plans, which are all directly linked.

For example, in the business sector, if the main production entities were to stop buying fuel and use RES instead, this would make them more efficient, which, since last year is directly proportional to worker’s salaries with the objective of unleashing the productive forces.

In order for the plans approved in the Development of Renewable Energy Sources Plan to be realized, significant investment from diverse sources is needed, including foreign capital to develop these technologies in various locations around the country, such as the Mariel Special Development Zone, through different initiatives made possible under the 118 Foreign Investment Law. 

Similarly, Cuba’s industrial policy must have as its aim the production of replacement parts, equipment and means for the development of RES and to evaluate the efficiency of energy consumption, with the aim of substituting imports and reducing the cost of investment. In this sense, the Electricity Business Group has a plant to manufacture solar panels in Pinar del Río, able to produce 14,000 kilowatts annually. In addition the Iron and Steel Business Group (GESIME) has a solar heater plant in Ciego de Ávila.

Meanwhile, a link must be established between territorial development and the optimization of the exploitation of renewable energy sources available in the area. The introduction of new RES technologies will require training of qualified personnel to take on the ambitious program, and the prioritization of scientific research and innovation based on a comprehensive strategy aimed at the modernization of scientific-technological infrastructure.

The magnitude of this policy can be appreciated in the table of information below, but this is only one element in understanding the scope of the policy. Cuba is planning to generate 24% of its electrical energy, through RES, by 2030, which will result in a saving of more than 1.3 million tones of fossil fuel or approximately 780 million dollars per year.

FOSSIL FUEL GENERATING

Although Cuba’s Future Development of Renewable Sources and the Efficient Use of Energy Policy includes actions to transform the country’s energy matrix, with RES being used to produce 24% of energy by 2030, the use of fossil fuels will nonetheless continue to be the country’s main generator of energy, providing 76% of electricity.

The SEN currently has a generating potential of approximately 5,600 megawatts, of which 2,588 are generated by thermoelectric units in seven large plants which contribute around 60% of the energy generated by all technologies.

In this sense the thermal plants, which today are inefficient in relation to their high rate of consumption and many years of exploitation, must be submitted to a process of modernization, which should include the increase of their power with the aim of increasing generating capacity, improving energetic efficiency, increasing competitively of products and improving services, not only for the benefit of the national economy but also the SEN.

Said modernization, in turn, will require a significant injection of capital, from various sources, the scenario for which is currently favorable, thanks to the regulatory framework implemented after the approval of the new Foreign Investment Law.

Over the last year, works on the thermoelectric plants have intensified. Unit six of the 10 de Octubre thermoelectric plant in Nuevitas is currently undergoing maintenance works which will conclude in February 2015, while four units remain out of service, one in the Máximo Gómez plant in Mariel, unit eight, and one in the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes plant in Cien­fuegos and unit three in the Este Habana plant in Santa Cruz del Norte. Maintenance works on the latter were begun in October.

Maintenance works are being carried out on all the main pieces of equipment: boilers, turbines, generators and auxiliary equipment including transformers, circuit and electrical systems; for the integration, monitoring and protection of the productive process.

All works are scheduled and the last will conclude in 2016; each will last approximately 250 days and have financial insurance, replacement parts and necessary materials as well as personnel who will guarantee the facilities´ continued functioning.

* A kilowatt (kW) is equal to one thousand Watts (W), which is a unit of electrical power measurement in the International System of Units; while the kilowatt hour (kWh) is the energy resulting from the multiplication of the power per unit time. For example, in a home using an electric iron which uses one kW of power, one kWh will be consumed if ironing for an hour.

 

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