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British Biomass JV Aims Targets Renewable Energy in Cuba

Renewable energy is a priority for Cuba as the island nation copes with power shortages and a dependency on foreign sources of crude oil. One British firm has been working on a project to exploit the energy value of sugarcane since 2012.

Havana Energy, led by former Labour trade secretary Brian Wilson, is to build a biomass power station in partnership with state­run sugar company Azcuba SA. If successful the project could be the first of five in Cuba.

According to Cuba officials, Cuba is expecting a gradual increase of no less than 14%   in the electricity generated from this biomass by 2030.

iomass power generation plants are considered efficient because they are cogeneration plants, releasing low pressure steam that will continue to be used in the sugar manufacturing process. The project was announced weeks after a trade visit by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and was welcomed last month by Britain’s Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC). CSC director Rob Miller told the Morning Star, “This is a welcome announcement which will contribute to Cuba’s energy needs in a sustainable way. “We hope that this long worked­for venture will help punch a small hole in the US blockade that still continues to hinder international trade with the island.”

The power stations will be fueled by sugarcane, but also by marabu, an invasive weed imported from Africa in the 19th century which has been found to be a high­quality biofuel. Sugar was once Cuba’s main export, but demand collapsed after the collapse of the Soviet Union — by far Cuba’s biggest customer — and the island has more recently been depending on tourism.

Work is expected to begin this autumn at Ciro Redondo sugar mill in the Ciego de Avila region, Cuba’s main sugarcane growing province. Each power station will cost £125 million and will sit alongside existing sugar mills. Mr Wilson said, “This is a crucial project for the Cubans who are acutely aware of their overdependence on imported oil and have ambitious targets to develop their renewable energy potential.”

UK­Based Esencia Group is the holding company reportedly behind Havana Energy. About Esencia Esencia is a British company that has been developing operations in Cuba for the last seven years. The company began by bringing the Floridita brand to Wardour Street in London and have continued with both a travel agency and an import/export agency in Cuba.

The company has also been active in developing businesses in two fundamental sectors. Firstly, in tourism through the development of integrated golf resorts and  boutique hotels in areas of outstanding natural beauty. Secondly, assisting in the expansion of the renewable energy sector with development projects in both biomass and hydro electricity.

Cuba Journal

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