The EKO PWÒP MICROGRID: THE NEXT STEP IN ENERGY!
In June 2015, Enèji Pwòp took over management of the Les Anglais EKo Pwòp microgrid. The grid was first launched in November 2012 with just 14 customers by Enèji Pwòp’s sister organization EarthSpark International. After a small expansion to 54 customers at the end of 2013, EarthSpark launched a larger, town-sized solar-powered smart grid serving 430 households on April 26, 2015. The newly installed grid is powered by a hybrid generation system developed by ZeroBase Energy LLC, including 93 kW of solar panels, 400 kWh of battery capacity and a small diesel backup generator. Smart meters developed by EarthSpark spin-off company SparkMeter, Inc. are enabling pre-payment, billing, monitoring and metering for grid customers.
What is a microgrid?
Around the world, there are many different definitions of ‘microgrid’. When we say microgrid, we mean an autonomous electricity system with power generation, poles, wiring and meters to provide power to homes and businesses in the ‘downtown’ area of a town. It’s like a national grid but smaller, and it’s possible for a microgrid to connect to other microgrids or to a central grid if and when consumption and generation patterns are such that interconnection could enhance service. Microgrid size can range from powering just a few homes up to thousands of homes. The way power is generated can also differ. The EKo Pwòp grid uses solar panels as the principle source of power generation and it has a small diesel generator to supplement power when needed. The EKo Pwòp grid has an array of batteries to store energy, so most of the time the grid is running off of silent and clean solar energy. Other microgrids could use wind or hydro power or only a diesel generator.
There are currently 440 homes and businesses connected to the grid receiving power on a 24/7 basis. The EKo Pwòp micro-grid highlights the following:
Prepayment- Just as most Haitians purchase credit for mobile phone minutes, customers on the EKo Pwòp grid purchase plop plop credits for their electricity from a local energy vendor. Once their credit is finished, their electricity turns off and they must go purchase more.
Efficiency- In order to provide power to as many people as possible, EarthSpark and Enèji Pwòp are working with clients to try to ensure access to deeply efficient end-user products. Efficient products can deliver high-quality services for a fraction of the power of an inefficient product. Fans, TV’s, fridges and freezers all have a wide range of efficiency, and Enèji Pwòp encourages its customers to always consider the most efficient model. Even if there is a higher up-front cost to purchase the more efficient appliance. Using efficient products like LEDs is essential!
Enèji Pwòp staff is available to discuss the benefits of efficiency, and EarthSpark may offer on-bill financing for deeply efficient end user products. To ensure overall grid efficiency, Enèji Pwòp enables customers to choose their level of electricity service. These levels limit how much power a customer can consume at once. About half of the grid is on a service level that will give them only 30 watts of power, which is enough to power light bulbs and charge cell phones. Our largest customers enjoy access to many kilowatts of power.
Diversified Customer Base + Collaborative Tariffs
In order to make the grid sustainable, there must be cost recovery. The EKo Pwòp tariffs are designed to make sure that this is the case, and they are different based on the different needs of customers. Some customers use a lot of electricity. These customers may be people who run a large factory or other business. Since these customers spend a lot on power, they essentially ‘buy down the cost of electrification’ for smaller customers. But these big customers benefit from the small customers too – the small customers are paying a higher price per unit of electricity, and they are often using electricity when the large customer isn’t.
The nature of the grid is that everyone is better off (more energy and/or less cost) as part of the network than they would have been on their own.