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What Energy Revolution Are We Talking About?

Cuba: What Energy Revolution Are We Talking About?
September 10, 2013
Janis Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES — In May of 2004, the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant
suffered a breakdown which had a considerable impact on Cuba’s
electrical generation network. This was the context – perhaps it was
more of a pretext – in which Commander in Chief Fidel Castro launched
the “initiative” known as the “Energy Revolution.”

The initiative was aimed at replacing old thermoelectric plants with new
power generators and substituting old electrical appliances used in
Cuban homes with new, energy-saving models.

What began as a response to a specific, critical problem became a
sinister government strategy, implemented in full force in 2005 under
the slogan of “Wellbeing and Quality of Life for the People.”

Brigades made up of social workers began working through the Committees
for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) to replace obsolete appliances
with energy-saving devices in all provinces, municipalities and towns
around the country.

This meant replacing old, Russian and domestic-made televisions with
more modern sets. Fans improvised out of the motors extracted from
Soviet washing machines and long-lived refrigerators made in the United
States or countries from the former socialist bloc were also targeted.

At first, people received the campaign very well, as many were still
using these ancient artifacts simply because they could not afford to
pay the high prices of modern appliances sold in Cuba’s hard currency
stores.

The electric stoves, rice cookers, multipurpose steam cookers, jars and
water heaters made in China were promoted with a great song and dance by
the government, to the point that the Comandante himself appeared on
television to show the population how to use these appliances properly –
and even shared some bean recipes on Cuba’s round table debate program.

All of this was just too good to be true, and soon after all the cons
began to rear their ugly heads.

The first was the announcement that the liquefied gas made available to
families (in parts of the city or other locations without gas piping,
that is to say, in most of Cuba, save in a number of neighborhoods in
Havana), would no longer be distributed on a monthly basis and would
begin to be sold only twice a year.

The second would be the official notification that electricity bills
would go up, made precisely after electrical appliances had been
distributed to most of the population and the gas quota had been
severely restricted. The third was informing the public that television,
refrigerators, air conditioning units and fans would be made available
to them on the condition that they handed their old appliances over to
the State.

Last but not least, Cuban families began to contract debts with the bank
in order to pay for the new appliances. In the case of more expensive
units, they were practically obliged to take out credit, with very high
interest rates.

The repercussions of the so-called Energy Revolution:

Since Cuba is a Caribbean island that is frequently lashed by hurricanes
and its electrical installations are out in the open, breakdowns are
frequent and electrical power cuts occur many times during the year. The
population, which does not have a steady and reliable supply of
liquefied gas, is thus left without a means of cooking their food, which
is a basic need.
This has prompted a new government strategy which consists in selling
liquefied gas at market prices. This is as horrendous a measure as those
which put us in this situation to begin with, and we could well devote
an entire article to it
The population, constantly complaining about the high electricity bills,
has no choice but to bite the bullet. To add insult to injury, the
government has distributed a pamphlet titled “Home Energy Saving Guide”,
which explains to people how to make use of their appliances efficiently.
The appliances handed over to the State in order to receive new units
were sold as scrap metal to other countries. The appliances received in
exchange for this were far from cutting-edge technology. On the
contrary, they are near-obsolete models, most of them with a relatively
short life expectancy, which Cubans have been forced to repair again and
again (when the spare pieces turn up, that is).
Because of the debts incurred by those who purchased these units from
the State, for the last 8 years nearly the entire population, in
addition to living on measly salaries and pensions, must pay a sizeable
chunk of their earnings to the government, month after month.
To make matters even worse, the environment isn’t benefiting in the
least, for there are those who are forced to cook outside, using
firewood stoves (as they did back in Medieval times), as they no longer
have a regular supply of liquefied gas and can’t afford to pay the high
electricity bills.
So, what “energy revolution” are we talking about here?

Source: “Cuba: What Energy Revolution Are We Talking About?” –
http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=98692

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