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In the Wake of Hurricane Matthew

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On Tuesday Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti with winds at 145 miles per hour.  The most devastated section of Haiti is where Sirona has been focused for the past three years installing solar stations that provide electricity to hundreds of homes.  The south of Haiti was completely severed from the rest of the country when the bridge outside of Petit Goave was swept away.  In addition to the loss of the bridge all communication to the south was cut off as well when cell towers were destroyed.

The wait for news has been excruciating.  What we do know is that crops were lost, the fishing industry destroyed, thousands of people are homeless and the death toll is rising as more information comes in.  The majority of our solar station operators were between Les Cayes and Port Salut, the area that took the brunt of Matthew’s assault.  Sirona is waiting for news to determine first how our system operators and communities were impacted, and for information to assess the destruction and loss of equipment.  Once we have assessed our needs we will post more information.  Our biofuel program is based in the area around Petit Goave and we are waiting for word on the thousands of families that we work with in that area as well.

Many thanks to those who follow and support the work we have done in Haiti over the past eight years.  Sirona will be working to rebuild after this tragedy, and donations to that effort are greatly appreciated.  Following a tragedy an appeal to donors is based upon immediate need, and we cannot yet assess our needs.  If you wish to donate to directly assist victims of this disaster the following organizations would be my top choice for humanitarian assistance because I personally witness the good work they do in Haiti both during good times and times of crisis:

Aid Still Required has been working in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.  Unlike other aid organizations that came and went, ASR has stayed in Haiti expanding programs that support communities and build self-sufficiency.  ASR has supported Sirona’s biofuel program and gone further by building an incredible school for children of our farming community.  The school mercifully survived the storm, but many homes of the families were damaged or destroyed and ASR will work to assist the community directly.

Mission of Hope International started by Lex and Renee Edme has been working in Haiti since 2000 to build schools, increase community sustainability, and provide assistance during crisis.  MOHI is an outstanding organization that will put use funds for long-term improvements in their communities.

Food for the Poor has worked in Haiti since 1986 and the signs of their work are found throughout the countryside.  Following this disaster this organization will have a major impact as food security has been greatly impacted by Matthew’s destruction.

Doctors Without Borders is an organization that provides medical assistance in Haiti to those that would not receive it otherwise. There is a great fear that the cholera epidimic will increase and this organization will be working with communities to provide care.

Thank you in advance for thinking of the people of Haiti.  More posts will follow as we get more information from the field.

Scalability: Critical for Spreading Light

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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.

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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.

Building Local Capacity

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12346473_968110443262632_6353387216766760745_nIt 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.

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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.

Supporting the Paris Climate Accord

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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.

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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.

Sirona Speaks at Women in NECA Round Table

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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