haiti power plant, port-de-paix
An aerial view of a power plant near Port-de-Paix, now abandoned after its operations were shut down in 2021. Photo by Kervenson Martial / Go West Now

Overview:

Port-de-Paix, alongside several Northwestern cities, endures a relentless blackout as the local EDH office closes and a critical power plant remains inactive for the past two years. Promises of electrification by the late President Moïse have fallen through, leaving residents in darkness and uncertainty. Natural energy potentials remain untapped, compounding the region's challenges.

PORT-DE-PAIX—About three months ago, the local office of Electricity of Haiti (EDH), the government-run utility, shut down. The sudden move left residents without answers and has intensified the already dire power crisis, marked by constant blackouts across the region for more than two years.  

“I can't recall the last time we had electricity. It must have been five years ago,” Marc Freguy Cereste, a Saint-Louis-du-Nord resident, said.

The recent office closure follows the earlier shutdown of a power plant inaugurated by the late President Jovenel Moïse. At the time, Moïse and EDH were launching a massive electricity campaign called Operasyon Relimen. But just days after the assassination, the plant ceased operations, plunging the cities into relentless darkness, just as Haiti’s government also descended into political chaos and gang violence that left little in functioning order.

Instead of seeing the promise of daily power realized, residents enduring the relentless blackout have had to resort to alternative power sources. Solar panels, battery generators, inverters and flashlights have since become indispensable for anyone looking for energy to light their homes and power various devices over the past 30 months. Now, facing the latest closure and impatient residents who want the power back, local authorities and community leaders are calling for immediate action and clearer communication from the government.

“We need to know what is being done to fix this,” said Dodly Aristide, a young resident. “We can’t keep living in the dark.”

A look at where Operasyon Relimen stood in early 2021, prior to the assassination of then-President Jovenel Moise. Haitian Times File Graphic

EDH service has been suspended in several large cities in the Northwest department. Port-de-Paix in particular, with its dense population of over 300,000, faces severe hardship from the lack of electrical power. Many still lament the once-promising new power plant in La Saline, a small town just miles from Port-de-Paix, remains a stark symbol of unfulfilled promises.

“This power plant gave us hope that we might find relief from our energy struggles,” said Morange Tanis, a Port-de-Paix resident. “But now, our problems have only deepened because, for over two years, we’ve had no access to the plant's service.”

Like many across the region, Labranche Mertilus, also of Port-de-Paix, has had to find alternatives to electrical power to carry out basic activities.

“I used to light my home with a whale candle,” Mertilus said. “Now, I rely on a small generator. Many in the neighborhood still use candles because they have no other option.”

Those who cannot afford alternative sources are still living in darkness. The recently closed EDH office has reignited frustration, with both the darkness and the lack of accessible information.

“This plant was supposed to change our lives,” Tanis said. “It’s just another broken promise… It seems our problems in Port-de-Paix are far from resolved.”

Unmet promises and continued despair

During his term, Moïse had made a promise to provide electricity nationwide within 24 months. He also partnered on the project called “Strengthening Haiti's Electricity Networks” with the Taiwanese firm Overseas Engineering Construction Company (OECC). The plan was for plant operations to be managed jointly by EDH and OECC.

To address the immediate concerns of Port-de-Paix, a city he adopted and lived in for 20 years, Moïse prioritized the construction of the La Saline power plant that was subsequently abandoned.

Daniel Saint Éloi, a former Director General of EDH in Port-de-Paix, explained what happened during a phone interview with The Haïtain Times on June 18. The La Saline plant’s four engines malfunctioned in the first few months of the inauguration, he said. Then it suffered the domino effect of rampant gang violence.

“The prolonged shutdown of the power plant in Port-de-Paix is largely due to the persistent insecurity along National Road #5, especially in the Tibwadòm area, Saint Éloi said. “Gang activity in the region has made it too dangerous for technicians to access and maintain the facility.”

The severe blackout extends beyond Port-de-Paix, affecting residents across the Northwest. In towns like Saint-Louis du Nord, Anse-à-Foleur, Latortue, Chansolme and Bassin Bleu, the power outages struggle mirrors the crisis in Port-de-Paix.

Recently hit by a devastating tornado, these communities are now grappling with the aftermath of the storm and absence of electricity that the now-abandoned power station was supposed to provide.

Towns in the lower part of the Northwest — such as Jean Rabel, Môle Saint Nicolas, Bombardopolis, and Baie-de-Henne — have turned to SIGORA, a private American energy provider delivering over 1,300 kwh of energy.

The island of Latortue, notably, stands as an exception in its exclusion from this intended supply, further highlighting the disparities in the region’s energy access. A historic commune and tourist gem in the Northwest, the island spans 22.99 miles in length and 4.16 miles in width, lying about 3.10 miles from Port-de-Paix. Founded in the early 17th century by the French, it has never had electricity, residents said.

“There have been discussions about [bringing electricity] to the island,” Max William Etienne, the island’s mayor, said. “President Moïse gave us hope, but Latortue still has no electric poles.”

Etienne also said the Haitians in the diaspora have funded the island’s other infrastructure projects, such as asphalting roads. The diaspora’s support for electricity in Latortue would be significant, he said.

Northwest’s untapped natural energy potential

Rivière des Barres located in in the Northwest department. Photo by Kervenson Martial, Haitian Times staff

Despite the dire situation, the Northwest region is not without potential solutions. It has natural energy resources, such as tidal turbines, that hold the potential to supply electricity to its various regions. The Trois Rivières and Rivière-des-barres hold significant, untapped hydroelectric capacity.

According to a 2015 study, L’Atlas du Bassin Versant (BV) des Trois Rivières, the Trois Rivières watercourse, passing through seven municipalities and 49 communal sections, discharges an impressive 208 cubic meters of water annually into the sea at Port-de-Paix. Similarly, the Rivière-des-Barres in Saint-Louis du Nord could generate several megawatts of hydroelectric power.

“We have the Rivière-des-Barres, which has the potential to generate several megawatts of power, yet it flows into the sea unused,” Cereste said. The country’s officials are aware of this potential but have not taken any action. They are negligent and simply irresponsible.”

Moïse’s ambitious electricity project seems now like a distant dream. The La Saline power plant, intended to be a cornerstone of this initiative, has instead become a poignant symbol of governmental neglect. Tanis said goats and other farm animals now run around the site.

Saint Éloi, the EDH official in Gonaives, offers hope as the country recently formed a transitional presidential council and prime minister.

“The plant will have a new director very soon,” he said, adding that he couldn’t provide details. “The people of Port-de-Paix, who have endured so much without power, will see improvements with this change.”

Kervenson Martial is a dedicated professional with a strong academic and professional background. He has garnered valuable professional experience as a journalist and radio reporter at Nationale D'Haiti (RNH) in Port-de-Paix, where she has been actively contributing since 2019. He has also served as a journalist and presenter of a political analysis program on RG80; 88.5 & 88.9 FM in Port-de-Paix and worked as a correspondent for the online media ``l’œil info. pro" in northwestern Haiti. He completed her studies at the Faculties of Administrative and Political Sciences at Valparaiso University. Additionally, she obtained a certificate in communication from the Francophone Higher Institute of Haiti (ISFH) and completed a data journalist certificate program with UNESCO. He studied journalism at the Technical School Refuge of the North-West (RETNO). Kervenson has demonstrated linguistic versatility. He is fluent in French and Creole and has a reasonable level of proficiency in English and Spanish

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1 Comment

  1. The hate tress of the and bourgeoisie against the proletariat and the competition between fractions of the capitalist class can be seen in the material conditions of the working class all over Haiti. International Capital concentrated in the country is the only responsible of the misery of the salary slaves; but the social power of the agents of Capital continues over the years with change. How could this situation be transformed radically? The proletariat must emerged as an independent class with its own program and with the objetive to unleash its insurrection to destroy the political domination of the bourgeoise.

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