Haitian Initiative Receives ‘Energetic’ Support from the Strategic Energy Institute
The delegation members are from left to right Vraldiejge Valcin, Junior Mesamours, Herode Victor, Ronald L. Cetoute, Vernet Etienne, and Georgia Tech graduate and initiative organizer Joseph Max Vede and retired professor Sam Shelton.
The Strategic Energy Institute participated in an initiative that will bring a new level of "energy" to the island Republic of Haiti. Created to assist in transitioning the country “from aid to trade," the Business, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership (B.E.L.) Initiative is a program that provides opportunities for students, entrepreneurs, and community leaders to explore business and innovation in the United States. The Strategic Energy Institute provided insight into current renewable energy technologies that can be used in Haiti to support the country's infrastructure and growth.
"Energy equity is an issue in economically challenged regions of the global economy," said Tim Lieuwen, executive director of the Strategic Energy Institute. "The hopeful outcome for the participants in the B.E.L. Initiative is to identify what is working in the United States and what could potentially work in Haiti to deliver energy to segments of the population who do not currently have access to this basic necessity."
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Haiti is facing two energy challenges: a broken electricity sector and dependency on charcoal. Only about one-quarter of the population has access to electricity. Even for those with access to electricity, reliability is inconsistent. By exploring renewable energy options abroad, the goal is to find educational or business solutions that will have a long-term success rate.
Max Veve, a 2015 civil engineering graduate of Georgia Tech and current U.S. ambassador for the Youth Government of Haiti, sees the opportunity for entrepreneurial growth for each of the participants. "The B.E.L. Initiative began with a pledge by the Georgia Haitian American Chamber of Commerce to educate 50 young Haitian leaders by 2030 for transformational change in Haiti," Veve said. "It's not realistic to assume the participants will learn everything in one lecture. The idea is that they will, however, begin to develop an understanding of how to build businesses in Haiti that provide important resources, such as off-grid energy."
The focus of the initiative is for participants to understand and seek ideas in fields that will have a positive economic impact on their communities. Out of 30 applications, and after a rigorous adjudication process, the top four applicants from various regions of the country were selected for the program. At the end of the program, they will present their ideas and solutions to a panel of experts for review and feedback, including project execution and feasibility.