Viva la Revolucion Energetica: In Two Short Years, Energy-Smart Cuba Has Bolted Past Every Country on the Planet

By Guevara-Stone, Laurie | Alternatives Journal, November-December 2008 | Go to article overview

Viva la Revolucion Energetica: In Two Short Years, Energy-Smart Cuba Has Bolted Past Every Country on the Planet


Guevara-Stone, Laurie, Alternatives Journal


WHAT NATION is the most sustainable in the world? If you guessed Sweden, Denmark or maybe Norway, you would be wrong. Instead, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has declared Cuba to be the only country on the planet that is approaching sustainable development. Key to this designation is the island's Revolucion Euergetica, an energy conservation effort launched only two years ago.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The WWF's Living Planet Report 2006 assesses sustainable development using the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) and the ecological footprint. The index is calculated using life expectancy, literacy and education, and per capita GDP. The UNDP considers an HDI value of more than 0.8 to be high human development. According to the ecological footprint, a measure of human demand on the biosphere, 1.8 global hectares per person or less denotes sustainability. The only country in the world that meets both of the above criteria is Cuba.

Just a few years ago, Cuba's energy situation was bleak. This communist nation of 11 million people had 11 large, inefficient thermoelectric plants that functioned less than half of the time. There were frequent blackouts and high transmission line losses. Adding to the crisis, most Cubans had inefficient appliances, 75 per cent of the population cooked with kerosene and residential electrical rates did not encourage conservation.

In 2004, back-to-back hurricanes slammed into Cuba, leaving a million people without electricity for 10 days. In the face of an antiquated system, violent storms, peak oil and climate change, Cubans realized that they had to make energy a priority. Thus, in 2006, they embarked on their Revolucion Energetica.

Today, two years later, the country consumes 34 per cent less kerosene, 37 per cent less LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and 80 per cent less gasoline. Cuba's per capita energy consumption is one-eighth of that in the US, while Cubans' access to health services, education levels and life expectancy rival those of their North American neighbours (see table 1).

Table 1 Cuba Challenges the World

                           Cuba     US      Mexico   Canada  Germany

Human Development Index   0.838    0.951     0.829    0.961    0.935
(2005)

Ecological Footprint       1.53     9.57      2.59     8.56     4.26
(ha per capita in 2000)

Life Expectancy            77.7     77.9      75.6     80.3     79.1

Literacy Rate              99.8       99      91.6       99       99

Infant Mortality Rate         6        6        22        5        4
(per 1000 live births)

% Infants with low birth      5        8         8        6        7
weight

% Children enrolled in       97       92        98       99       96
primary school

Public expenditure on       9.8      5.9       5.4      5.2      4.6
education (% of GDP)

Electricity consumption    1380   14,240      2130   18,408     7442
per capita (kWh)

[CO.sub.2] emissions        2.3     20.6       4.2     20.0      9.8
per capita

GDP per capita            $6900  $48,200   $12,400  $38,400  $33,900

                                               Spain    Denmark

Human Development Index (2005)                  0.949    0.949
Ecological Footprint (ha per capita in 2000)     4.90     5.32
Life Expectancy                                  80.5     77.9
Literacy Rate                                      99       99
Infant Mortality Rate (per 1000 live births)        4        4
% Infants with low birth weight                     6        5
% Children enrolled in primary school              99       95
Public expenditure on education (% of GDP)        4.3      8.5
Electricity consumption per capita (kWh)         6412     6967
[CO.sub.2] emissions per capita                   7.6      9.8
GDP per capita                                $31,260  $39,100

Data from the United Nations Human Development Index Report 2007/2008
and Footprint of Nations 2004 Update. … 

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