WORLD EXCLUSIVE by Scottish Energy News
A UK energy company led by two Scots will today deliver Cuba’s first major renewables project, which is vital to reducing the country’s chronic reliance on oil imports from Venezuela.
A ground-breaking ceremony is scheduled for Ciro Redondo sugar mill today in Cuba (7 Apr 2017) heralding the first of four biomass power plants costing a total of £500 million which will add 300 megawatts to the country’s power grid.
Ex-pat businessman Andrew MacDonald and with Brian Wilson – a former UK Energy Minister and Scottish MP – founded Havana Energy after being asked by the Cuban government to help find a solution to their energy needs.
The company secured a joint venture with the Cuban sugar ministry in 2012 to build the plants.
The ground-breaking ceremony is being attended by the British and Chinese ambassadors in Havana, as well as leading Cuban dignatories
However, the plans have faced difficulty in attracting foreign investment due to the US blockade of Cuba which continues to deter most potential funders. Eventually, Havana Energy found technical and investment partners in the Chinese conglomerate, Shanghai Electric.
Speaking from Havana, Wilson said: “It has been a long haul made infinitely more difficult by the US blockade.
“There is a widespread’ misapprehension’ that former US president Obama had ended the economic blockade of Cuba. Obama did some useful things but did not have the power to lift the blockade, which is still very much in place.
“The outcome confirms how crazy that policy is – after decades trying to get rid of the Russians, the US is still creating conditions in which a Chinese company fills the void”.
He described Shanghai Electric as “terrific partners” who are now expected to secure a string of major infrastructure projects in Cuba.
The joint venture, Biopower Ltd, will be headed by MacDonald, who has a history of working in developing markets and now lives in Havana.
Wilson added: “Without Andrew’s presence on the ground and his utter commitment to overcoming obstacles, we would never have reached this point. There is still the challenge of funding subsequent plants but the first one was always going to be the most difficult”.
Andrew MacDonald said: “The fact that we are now delivering the first of these power stations should give other investors confidence in the potential of Cuba where change is in the offing and the opportunities are many and varied”.
In addition to residues of the sugar crop, power will be generated by burning an invasive weed called marabou which has taken over 1.5 million hectares in Cuba as agriculture has receded over recent decades.
Long regarded as a wood in Cuba, marabou was found by Havana Energy after tests in the UK to be a highly effective biomass fuel and is now being harvested for use in the power plants.