Haiti had limited energy resources in the late 1980s. The country had no petroleum resources, little hydroelectricity potential, and rapidly diminishing supplies of wood fuels. Wood accounted for 75 percent of the nation's energy consumption. Petroleum accounted for 15 percent; bagasse (sugarcane residue), for 5 percent; and hydroelectric power, for 5 percent. Energy consumption was paltry, even for a low-income country. Haiti's per capita energy use in 1985 was equivalent to that in Bangladesh and about seventeen times less than that of neighboring Jamaica. Having virtually no access to electricity, Haiti's poor depended on the felling of trees for the production of charcoal. Similarly, many rural and provincial small businesses used wood as a fuel in powering their operations.
Beginning in the late 1940s, various international oil companies had unsuccessfully explored for oil in Haiti's Artibonite Basin and Cul-de-Sac Basin. The prospects for drilling deeper wells or attempting even higher-risk offshore exploration were not promising. Oil imports, mainly from the Netherlands Antilles and Trinidad and Tobago, amounted to about 15 percent of total imports.
Electricity consumption increased sixfold between 1970 and 1987, but only 10 percent of the population had access to electricity by 1986. About 45 percent of the residents of Portau -Prince had access to electricity--a reflection of the concentration of national economic efforts and resources in the capital--while a mere 3 percent of those outside the capital enjoyed similar access.
Installed electricity capacity in the late 1980s was estimated at 147 megawatts (MW), and it was expected to increase to 190 MW by the late 1990s. The National Electricity Company (Electricité d'Haiti--EdH), created in 1971 to control the newly built Péligre hydroelectric plant, operated the nation's power system in the late 1980s. As was true of other enterprises throughout the economy, the president was the nominal head of EdH. The company administered the 47-MW Péligre hydroelectric plant, the 22-MW Guayamouc hydroelectric plant, a series of smaller hydroelectric plants, two large thermo-electric operations (42-MW Varreux and 38-MW Carrefour), small generators, and the distribution system. The national system, however, was highly disjointed; no power links extended from the capital to provincial cities. Supplies of imported petroleum used in thermal plants fluctuated because of foreign-exchange shortages, and dryseason water shortfalls hampered production at hydroelectric dams. EdH's generation was unreliable. Under these conditions, rationing of electricity was common in the 1980s, and most larger businesses maintained back-up generators. EdH, which had suffered financial problems in the 1970s, charged the highest electricity rates in the Caribbean in the 1980s. Many people illegally tapped into power lines, and by the late 1980s, as many as one in four urban residents reportedly engaged in this practice. International development agencies had explored alternative sources of energy, such as wind power, solar power, methanol production from sorghum, and power generation from organic waste, but none appeared to be immediately feasible.
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