UNICEF Haiti goes 100% solar

Thu, 06/12/18

Environmental degradation disproportionately impacts children, particularly in vulnerable communities. Adopting renewable energy sources like solar, especially in places that are at the front lines of climate change and suffering from high energy costs, results in a wide array of health, economic, environmental, and societal benefits, while curbing harmful pollution that threatens the health and well-being of the most vulnerable. 

In response to this reality and the optimal climate conditions in Haiti, particularly the reliable annual sunlight, UNICEF Haiti embarked on a two year long journey to switch to solar power. Working closely with the Inclusive & Sustainable Operations (ISO) team in New York HQ,  the office succeeded in replacing the loud, dirty, and costly diesel generators with a 130 kW solar plant that supports the entire office’s electrical load. While the generators would remain as a backup, the office’s primary energy source is now our sun.

The switch to solar will incur many benefits, including the following:

  1. Improving the operational efficiency by saving more than USD$90,000 in diesel costs yearly, resulting in a 7 year payback.  
  2. Reducing the environmental impact through avoiding the release of 155,000 KGs of carbon dioxide and pollutants into the air that Haitian children breathe every year. To put things into perspective, this is equivalent to 4,026 trees planted, 33 cars removed and 360 Barrels of oil saved.
  3. Ensuring business continuity through providing a steady power supply,  not subject to disruption from natural disasters, an ailing national grid,  or sudden increases in global or local fuel prices. 
  4. During its construction, the project site served as a solar design and assembly training platform for young Haitian women engineers due to the lack of this particular skillset for women in Haiti. Once completed, the project will also be used as an example for Haitian school kids to learn more about renewable energy.

The project faced some challenges, most notably mobilising enough resources within a tight time frame. However, with UNICEF’s organisational commitment, hard work and collaboration from both the Country Office team and UNICEF HQ, funds were mobilised from both sources, and the project finally took off. 

Thanks to the ample roof space and ideal conditions, UNICEF Haiti is now UNICEF’s first office that can run entirely on solar power! It joins the many UNICEF offices that have reported completion of solar photovoltaic systems of different sizes, including offices in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Jordan, DPRK, Thailand, Afghanistan, China, Gambia, Lao PDR, Rwanda, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, Denmark, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Liberia, India, Eritrea and Comoros. The list is growing with more offices coming on board, and  following the UNICEF’s Procedure on Eco-efficiency and Inclusive Access in UNICEF Premises and Operations to improve their energy efficiency!

Categories: Energy