Cuba is an island rich of natural resources and with ambitious energy policies and a commitment to drastically increase renewable energy production. The island nation plans to invest over $3.5 billion to develop this sector as part of its ongoing “energy revolution.” Located only 90 miles off our shore, U.S. renewable companies could play a leading role in shaping the future of Cuba’s energy supply.
Removing trade restrictions on Cuba would provide U.S. renewable energy companies with access to a growing clean energy market, while helping Cuba become energy efficient. This would be good for U.S. companies, good for Cuba, and good for the environment.
Renewable Energy Opportunities
In 2014, the Cuban government declared that the island will move away from its dependence on fossil fuels and towards an energy portfolio of solar, wind and biomass systems. Specifically, the government set a goal of obtaining 24% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. As an island nation in the Caribbean, Cuba’s topography is well suited to cultivate a diverse renewable energy profile:
Cuba’s coastlines are ideal for wind power generation.
Cuba’s largest river is the Sagua la Grande, which contains several waterfalls; the river can be better utilized to provide hydroelectric power.
While Cuba’s sugar production has not returned from pre-1990s levels, it remains one of Cuba’s largest crops. A revived sugar industry could allow Cuba to expand its production of sugar-ethanol and other biofuels from sugarcane products.
Photovoltaic systems in Cuba work extremely well due to Cuba’s high sun exposure and mountainous terrain.
However, Cuba currently lacks the financial capital necessary to develop the infrastructure required to harness its natural resources as energy sources. In order to become an energy-independent nation – or at least less reliant on crude oil imports – Cuba will need significant foreign direct investment, representing tremendous opportunities for U.S. renewable energy companies.
CUBA'S ENERGY SECTOR
Cuba’s energy supply has faced significant challenges over the years. Cuba has an immediate and growing need to diversify its energy supply given the reduction in crude oil shipments from Venezuela--Cuba’s top supplier of fossil fuel.
“Special period” (1991-1995):
During this time, it is estimated that the USSR accounted for 90% of Cuba’s energy supply. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba faced a severe economic crisis that took almost a decade for the island to recover from. The largest element to the crisis was the loss of cheap petroleum from Russia, resulting in rolling blackouts during the '90s. Gasoline quickly became unobtainable to ordinary citizens in Cuba, and mechanized agriculture and food distribution systems all but collapsed.
VENEZUELAN OIL AGREEMENT:
A 2000 energy agreement with Venezuela allowed Cuba to purchase crude oil at a heavily subsidized rate. As Venezuela spirals further into economic crisis and as crude oil exports to Cuba decline, the island must diversify its energy supply.
CUBA'S "ENERGY REVOLUTION":
In 2006, in response to a local energy crisis, Cuba announced its ongoing “energy revolution” in an attempt to lower energy consumption and improve efficiency. The “energy revolution” has been successful in reducing energy consumption, but there has been less progress in developing the infrastructure for domestic power generation.
SEPTEMBER 2, 2016:
Engage Cuba was proud to be a lead partner of the 2016 Cuba Energy and Infrastructure Summit was held in Havana, Cuba. The Summit connected U.S. energy companies, international investors and senior Cuban officials to assess Cuba's current energy infrastructure and explore opportunities for market entry and investment.
SEPTEMBER 12, 2016:
The United States and Cuba held the inaugural Economic Dialogue in Washington, D.C.. Part of the bilateral conversations included discussions on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Administration Regulatory Changes
The administration released changes to U.S. Cuba sanctions that allowed for the export of U.S. items related to renewable energy or energy efficiency. These items will be necessary for the environmental protection of U.S. and international air quality, waters and coastlines.