Joint UK-Cuban venture to build power plants
By Sarah Mishkin
Published: January 16 2011 23:33 | Last updated: January 16 2011 23:33
A UK and Cuban joint venture will invest $250m in building a biomass
power plant near Havana, in one of the largest renewable energy
partnerships between the two nations.
Havana Energy, a UK group chaired by former UK energy minister Brian
Wilson, will form a joint venture with Zerus SA, a state-owned company
in Cuba's Ministry of Sugar, to build up to five power plants fuelled by
bagasse, the residue that remains after sugar cane processing.
A pilot plant will be built at Ciro Redondo Sugar Mill, a 100-year old
plant on government-owned land about 400km outside Havana. The venture
will build four more plants in the project's second stage.
"It is possible via the sugar mills and bagasse-based power plants to
generate up to 40 per cent of the energy needs of the country today,"
said Nelson Labrada, Cuba's vice-minister of sugar, in a statement.
According to Havana Energy, 7 per cent of Cuba's energy need are
currently provided by renewable energy sources, and the company has
identified 56 sugar refineries in the country suitable for biomass power
The UK group will invest $250m in the project, and its Cuban partner
will contribute in-kind contributions including land and sugar cane,
said Mr Wilson. The group expects that the pilot plant, set to cost
$50m, will provide a return on its investment within five years.
"[Cubans] are very heavily dependent on oil imports, which doesn't make
a lot of sense when they have massive resources that are underutilised,"
he said. "They know that, and they know the need to do this for economic
and environmental reasons."
The memorandum of understanding between Zerus SA and the UK group was
signed shortly before Christmas, and construction on the first plant
will start this year. The company described the deal as the first major
renewable energy partnership between Cuba and the UK.
Havana Energy is part of the Escensia group, a UK company that works in
the Cuban tourism, trade and energy sectors. The company has also
partnered with Cuban government ministries to develop hydro-electric
generators and wind farms.