Three elements are required to have an impact in development work. The program must be sustainable, replicable and scalable. Over time Sirona is proving that our Ti Soley Program is sustainable both environmentally and economically. When 100 homes pay for electricity access from our solar systems the cost per home is low enough for homes to improve their economics by paying less for energy than they had paid for inferior sources of energy (kerosene, batteries, cell phone charging, candles, etc.). Also, when 100 homes are paying a small fee each month the capital cost of the station is paid off in under five years with a return that is acceptable to impact investors. By creating local businesses we are we are improving both household and village economics. We are keeping the money that flows into the kerosene market circulating in impoverished communities instead.
Next, our program is replicable. We have replicated our success throughout Haiti and we are currently engaged in a small program in Ghana as well as looking at opportunities in Kenya and Uganda. The program can be replicated in any impoverished off-grid community where the current median cost of household energy is at least $10 per month. In Haiti the median cost that homes are currently paying is $10.50 and rising due to local inflation.
Finally, impact requires scalability. In the past week we deployed electricity access for 600 homes in four days. With a pickup and a team of two, two stations can be deployed in a day. If the household size is 5 people per home, we reach 1,000 people per day. The program can scale as rapidly as financing is available and its impact is instant.
We are proving, by delivering 1.5 tons of equipment to a tiny island in Haiti, and to its mountaintops, that our program can be deployed anywhere that energy poverty persists. We will continue to demonstrate the positive impacts of our work and look forward to expanding throughout and beyond Haiti in the coming year.
The recent deployment was part of the UN Environmental Program’s Cote de Sud Initiative funded by the Government of Norway. The opportunity to work with this consortium has been a privilege.
It takes money to establish programs in developing countries, but they won’t thrive if local people are not engaged and trained to succeed. Sadly much money is lost on projects that don’t capitalize on building local capacity.
From the beginning Sirona has designed our programs with local partners. We didn’t just ask if they liked the programs, we worked with them to create and customize the business plans. As we replicate our program in new countries we work with the local partners to determine what customizations their communities will need for the program to succeed. Our programs work because of that input. In addition, the equipment we use is streamlined and specifically designed for local technicians to be able to understand and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. The Ti Soley kits are designed to be simple, durable and reliable.
Our manufacturing partners, Day and Night Solar and Wagan Tech have been invaluable to us. This past week we deployed our first six Day and Night SC1500 systems and 600 new Ti Soley kits. Five of
the six solar stations can tie into the Haitian grid, and one was a solar stand-alone system. Day and Night Solar sent a technician to train our local
technicians. There is a craving in Haiti and other developing countries for this type of training. The technicians can now communicate any issue with Day and Night Solar, and because the equipment is warranted solutions will be found for anything that goes wrong in the future.
Within a week of the gavel pounding at the Paris Climate Accord Sirona deployed six new stations to supply clean, affordable electricity to 600 more homes in Haiti. We have been working towards this deployment for six months with goods delayed in customs for most of that period. Today though 600 homes now have access to electricity.
In addition to bringing an electricity solution our program created six new small business that provide recharging of battery kits called “Ti Soley” (“Little Sun” in creole) kits. These businesses collect a rental fee each month that is less than the prices households already pay for kerosene. This means that the environment is improved by lowering kerosene consumption in rural Haiti and village economics are improved by keeping the money that would have gone to the kerosene market in their local economy.
In Paris on December 12th delegates from 195 countries committed to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and the following week in rural Haiti a small step was taken towards that goal.
It was an honor to be the guest speaker at the Women in NECA Round Table at the annual NECA convention in San Francisco. NECA, the National Electrical Contractor’s Association was a well attended conference where Sirona’s manufacturing partner Day and Night Solar displayed their range of solar products. The conference proved to be a great way to connect with others in the electrical industry.
An article following the event was run in US Builder’s Review and can be found at: http://www.usbuildersreview.com/blog/annual-women-neca-round-table-connects-leading-ladies-san-francisco
Since January of 2009 I have been making trips to Haiti. We have accomplished a great deal lighting homes and creating a biofuel program, but its only a drop in a bucket. You can look either at accomplishments, or need, and feel encouraged or depressed. Today I’m cleaning out my home office and ran across a bundle of notes from a trip in 2011. I wrote this then, and felt encouraged after reading it today. If you haven’t been to Haiti you really can’t imagine what it is like from what you hear on the news. I think I wrote this years ago to share, and I’m glad I found it today:
Smiling, laughing, kisses on cheeks, beautiful children with ribbons in braids;
School uniforms. Boys and girls walk linked, arm in arm, to school.
Makeshift kites and balls entertain, chalkboard slates educate.
Workers scurry from place to place. Those without jobs make them.
A helping hand is always there.
Your truck won’t stay stuck in the mud for long – the village comes to help.
Curious stares from expressionless faces ignite into dazzling smiles with a simple “hello”.
Beautiful beaches, water in countless shades of blue.
Mountains rise one after another covered with rocks and infant trees.
Optimism, determination, boundless creativity and ingenuity define the Haitian way.
Can-do, will-do: their attitude.
Not blind to the poverty, the creases placed on faces through countless hardships;
the red hair of malnutrition.
Waste, garbage, open sewers, sickness.
Broken dreams, debris, rusted equipment.
Sugarcane fields lying in waste due to cheaper overseas sugar.
Rice – the same.
I see these things, all of them, but to me they are not the image of Haiti.
This is the current condition, but I see too much to believe it will last.
Haiti is not hopeless. Haitians are not hopeless.
The reflection of “Haiti” is in the smiles of her people.
I am privileged and honored to work in such a place, and her optimism is contagious. I am not hopeless.
It is my responsibility to tell the world, whatever you’ve heard before, consider this: there is much more to the story.
On August 7th Michelle Lacourciere was honored to speak about rural energy solutions at an event, “Transformative Innovation Africa Soirée” which corresponded with the timing of the U.S. African Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. The event was a co-sponsored by the STAR TIDES Initiative and Integrated Solar Technologies and was well attended by USAID representatives, and many, including diaspora, who are interested in development in Africa. One of five speakers Ms. Lacourciere was given time to discuss the success of Sirona’s program rural energy program in Haiti, our partnership with Day & Night Solar (which was initiated at a STAR TIDES event in San Diego two years ago) and the potential for replication of this success beyond Haiti. The highlight of her presentation was illuminating the new Ti Soley kit which is pictured below. Along with this kit a customer receives home lighting accessories (two bases and two LED bulbs that each provide light equivalent to a 50 Watt bulb). A good time was had by all and many potential opportunities arose through the course of the evening. It’s an honor and privilege to be able to speak so highly of what our partners in Haiti are accomplishing on the ground.
Sirona places the power to create use and sell energy into the hands of the world’s poorest people. This is a good thing. Without access to energy people are trapped in grinding poverty. With access to even basic energy people breathe easier (by avoiding contact with toxic kerosene fumes) and can have improved access to communication (cell phones and radios). Things change for the better, but how? And how much? It’s a fair question to ask, “how much does having a couple of light bulbs really help?”.
That very question was undertaken by anthropologists from George Mason University. Funded by the United Nations Environmental Program they went to Haiti to study three villages. The first community has no energy access, the second has had Sirona’s Ti Soley program in place for about 2 years, and the third has had Ti Soley for about 6 months. The Impact Assessment report: Sirona Impact Assessment-Final Report – June 2014 explains how Sirona’s energy access solution is improving lives and shows that even this level of energy makes a significant difference.
Sirona’s Haiti team has been very busy working to select sites and train new Operators to recharge Ti Soley kits in the southern region of Haiti. In June the team added 12 new Operators and opened 12 new sites. Ten of these new sites are serving 50 homes and two already serve 100 homes. These sites are called “Depo Eneje” or Energy Store in Creole. Funding for this program was received from the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) as part of the Cote du Sud Initiative. Funded by the Government of Norway the initiative is a comprehensive plan for promoting local programs that positively impact erosion, agriculture, fishing and energy in the Cayes region of Haiti. Critically these programs create jobs, build local capacity and are sustainable. Sirona is very proud to be a partner in this endeavor and thrilled to be nearing the initial goal of 1,000 homes lit. We are closing in on completion of our first phase and will have a second phase that will bring light to an additional 2,000 homes in next 6-9 months. The photo above shows our Customer Service Representative, Sonny, teaching kids about the Ti Soley kit and how it is used in the home. Once these children’s homes have a kit they will no longer be exposed to the toxic fumes of kerosene lanterns (the soot from which equals about 40 cigarettes per day to everyone in the house). These kids will breathe better, be able to study easier, and even listen to the rest of the World Cup on their radios.
It is with a full heart that I write this post. Last fall I was selected as a regional Jefferson Award winner by KPIX TV and KCBS Radio in San Francisco. In January I was selected as a Silver Jefferson Award for being in the top five local winners. In May I learned that of the five I was to represent KPIX and KCBS in Washington, D.C. at the Jefferson Awards National Ceremony. This was an incredible honor.
The Jefferson Awards were created to be an equivalent to the Nobel Peace Prize recognizing individuals for public service, and it is the nations highest award in this field. During the National Ceremony five individuals are selected in secret and given the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award during the ceremony. I, Michelle Lacourciere, Director of the Sirona Cares Foundation, received one of the five awards yesterday.
These award ceremonies show us all what is so very right in America. Three days of celebrating amazing programs, projects, compassion and positive energy. A major effort is put into recognition of youth who are giving their time and effort to make lives better. It was extremely humbling to be invited to this ceremony, and I have many, many people to thank for their support in getting Sirona to this stage. My family and friends have supported me through every hurdle and challenge, and without this support network I simply could not travel as much as I must to keep our programs growing. I also wish to thank my Board of Directors and my amazing volunteers who have come through in amazing ways, every time.
The IEEE and its Community Solutions Initiative (CSI) deserves much gratitude and appreciation. Partnering with the IEEE allowed us to take a dream and turn it into a reality. There are countless individuals who have given their time and talent, and the IEEE has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for development and delivery of equipment that has brought light to villages across Haiti. I am eternally grateful to the IEEE and CSI for it’s commitment to bringing energy to developing countries.
My manufacturing partners Wagan Tech and Day and Night Solar also deserve a huge thanks. They have worked with me to develop cost effective products that will change the lives of many in the future. It has been a blessing to work with these companies who are dedicated to our mission of bringing energy to the poor.
Without the support of KPIX TV and KCBS Radio we would never have been noticed. I thank these groups for nominating me, for the footage they have created, and for the support that they have given me.
Finally, without our Haitian partners we would be nowhere. I am forever in the debt of our team in Haiti, the friends who I have worked with down there to grow and improve the program, UNEP, USAID, the Government of Haiti’s Ministry of Energy and National Utility, and most especially our Operators and customers who are truly the ones who proved that this program works.
With all my thanks,