Earlier this month, Mirebalais Hospital in Haiti starting installing 1,800 solar panels. The hospital, run by nonprofit Partners in Health, will have the largest solar array in Haiti and expects the panels to pay for themselves in less than three years.
“The Caribbean has some of the highest electricity rates in the world,” Bill Clinton said at the Sustainable Operations Summit in New York last Thursday. “Almost every country in the Caribbean could be completely energy independent with solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.”
The problem, obviously, is the high upfront cost of renewables and the fact that some of the poorest countries, like Haiti, don’t have the systems in place to allow for investment in renewables and energy efficiency.
But that’s changing, if the Clinton Foundation’s Climate Initiative has anything to do with it. These days, he’s traveling the globe touting the value of energy efficiency upgrades as a local job creator and the need to bring renewables to regions of the world that need them the most. “It’s extremely frustrating to see how long it’s taking,” he said in regards to creative energy efficiency financing models.
The time for solutions, like rethinking on-bill financing, is now. Clinton noted that the Empire State Building, which has undergone one of the most widely cited retrofits, is not necessarily replicable. Although the project, led by Tony Malkin, whose company owns the Empire State Building, has been extremely transparent, there was the money upfront to pay for some of the substantial retrofits, including upgrading many of the landmark’s custom windows to be more efficient.
Money like that just isn’t available in most buildings, and certainly not in Haiti, where solar projects have largely been financed by donations, such as in the case of the hospital, which had various donors, including NRG Energy.