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Only 4% on Cuba’s energy comes from renewable sources, but the government is committing to a combination of public and private capital to increase this to 24% by 2030. Michael Deibert reports. 

When outsiders picture Cuba, they might think only of old cars and cigars – or, for the investment minded, perhaps the Nico López oil refinery whose orange flames looms over Havana’s bay or Sherritt International’s joint venture with the Cuban government at the Moa nickel mine. However, FDI opportunities in Cuba are growing ever more diverse.

In the waning days of the Obama administration – the last president had held a policy of détente with Cuba since 2014 – the US government hosted its Cuban counterparts for a working group on renewable energy with members of the US Departments of State and Energy in Washington, D.C. A few weeks earlier, the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas Cuba Working Group held the ‘Energizing Cuba’ conference in New York, focused on the same topic.

As Cuba’s main supplier of oil, Venezuela’s Petróleos de Venezuela reduced its exports to Cuba by least 40% during 2016, the island is now soliciting some $4.2bn in foreign investments in renewable technology such as biomass, solar and wind.

Currently, only 4% on Cuba’s energy comes from renewable sources, but the government has stated that its goal is to increase that share to 24% by 2030. Thus far, a group at the Universidad Tecnológica de la Habana José Antonio Echeverría has created a multidisciplinary group to make a wind map of Cuba. At present, Cuba has 132 small hydroelectric power stations that generate electricity, a factory producing photovoltaic solar panels, a plethora of fauna for potential use in biomass energy and a number of wind farms in areas such as Gibara in the country’s east.

Cuba’s Law 118 (passed in 2014) allows 100% ownership in certain sectors by foreign investors, a radical departure from previous practice, as well as providing significant tax incentives and increased guarantees. It is clear, however, based on discussions with Cuban officials, that for renewables the government envisions more of a hybrid approach.

“The financing of our development of renewable energies must be an adequate combination of both state credits and foreign investment,” says Argelia Balboa Monzón, senior advisor for renewable energies to Cuba’s minister of energy and mines. “Biomass is going to be the most important... [Eventually] 6% of this 24% should constitute biomass [and] biomass must contribute 14%. And there is wind energy and solar energy, as well.”

Cuba is currently entering a period of uncertainty. The approach to Cuba that will be adopted by new US president Donald Trump remains unclear. Cuba’s own controversial leader Fidel Castro, who stepped down from day-to-day running of the country a decade ago but still casts a long shadow, died last November. His brother Raúl, who has run the country ever since, has stated his intention to step down next year. His likely successor is 55-year-old vice-president Miguel Diaz-Canel, a longtime Communist whose approach to foreign investment, though though to be flexible, as yet remains undefined. 

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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