Created: Sunday, 21 December 2014 17:06
Written by Cal Shaw
Cuba plans to generate 24% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030, including 14% from the sugar industry. Wind power will account for 6%, solar 3% and hydro-electric 1%.
Sugar mills have long produced their own power using bagasse – fibrous sugar cane remnants. Bagasse biomass is an efficient and renewable energy source. Liobel Perez, spokesman for Azcuba, the state run enterprise which replaced the Ministry of Sugar in 2011, notes ‘The carbon dioxide produced in the generation of electricity is the same amount that the sugar cane absorbs when it grows, which means there is an environmental balance.’ Azcuba is tasked with increasing sugar production and developing industry from its by-products. Production is steadily rising – last year 1.6m tonnes of sugar were produced. Currently 3.5% of electricity is generated from sugar. The plan is to install bioelectric plants in 20 of Cuba’s 56 sugar mills, generating 755 megawatts for the national grid. This will cost $1.29bn, from government loans and regulated foreign investment. The first plant will be built near Ciro Redondo sugar mill as a joint venture between Azcuba and British firm Havana Energy. It is due to open in 2016, producing energy using bagasse and marabou, a woody shrub cleared from arable land.
The Cuban Revolution is known for its permaculture and environmental policies. The 2006 World Wildlife Fund’s ‘Living Planet’ report identified Cuba as the only country in the world with sustainable development, combining a low ecological footprint with a high human development index. Energy production from sugar industry waste evokes Che Guevara’s vision when creating the Cuban Institute of Research on Sugar Cane Derivatives in 1963: ‘the day will come when sugar cane derivatives will be as important to the national economy as sugar is today.’*
* Che Guevara: the economics of revolution, Helen Yaffe, p178.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 242 December 2014/January 2015