Cuba’s Energy Revolution – what can we learn?

 Interview by Ian Curr for the Paradigm Shift on 4ZZZ

Energy use in Cuba by Mario Alberto Arrista Avila

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Public transport in cuba and energy use

Cuba’s energy revolution

A speaking tour by Cuba’s Principle Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Educator, Mario Alberto Arrastía Avila to tour Eastern Australia in July/August, 2011.

Mario Alberto Arrastía Avila will be speaking at QUT (Gardens Point Campus, Theatre 117, Block B) this coming Thursday, 21 July 2011, at 6 – 7.30 p.m.

The following night Mario Alberto Arrastía Avila will be part of a panel following the film ‘The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil’, also showing at QUT.
: 5pm – 7pm FRIDAY 22nd JULY
: QUT Z-411 Theatre, Z-Block, 4th-Floor
Gardens Point Campus, 2 George Street, Brisbane City

If you would like to attend register at​nts/event/public-presentat​ion-brisbane-featuring-pro​f-mario-avila

About Mario Alberto Arrastía Avila
Mario is responsible for the development and delivery of energy education at all levels within Cuba. His focus is on renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change. He currently produces a weekly “Energy and Climate Change” program shown on national television as well as writing articles on renewable energy for national newspapers. Mario is a passionate and engaging speaker.

Mario Avila

Why someone from Cuba?

(Report from Trevor Berrill) I recently visited Cuba, driven by interest in their music and culture, but also in their “Energy Revolution”. Cuba is one of the first countries to have experienced a major loss of oil supply, when almost 70 percent of its oil supply stopped with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. This had a huge impact on food production and availability, and their transport and electricity systems. As well, climate change, in the form of extreme category 5 cyclones in recent years, has caused havoc on the electrical transmission system and other infrastructure. This reached a peak in 2003-05 with major shortages of power across the nation.

Cuba has responded in several ways. One is their “Energy Revolution”, which is a radical shift to a distributed grid system, energy efficiency, renewable energy systems and a “shared” transport system. To support this policy, in 2007, the “Central Group of Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency was created and nowadays it embraces fifteen groups that are working in outlining national strategies to develop renewable energy technologies.” (Source: Arrastia-Avila et al)

The other is their adoption of permaculture agricultural practices to help provide fruit and vegetables through local cooperatives in towns and cities across the nation. “With the collapse of Soviet trade, Cuba sought another pathway for urban development which included the importation of one million bikes from China, to reduce the dependence on oil imports, and the program to establish urban gardens. This development process is more closely identified with ecologically sustainable development than any other nation in the world.” (Source: ACF). These structural changes are elements that many of us promote as part of a more sustainable future.

Cuba has a long history of both development and use of renewable energy technologies including wind pumps, hydroelectric systems and biomass fuel from sugar cane. These recent events have helped formulate a “much clearer vision, on the part of the high level officials of the country, with regard to the importance of renewable sources of energy and energy education of the society for the sustainable development of the country.” (Source: Arrastia-Avila et al). Cuba now has both PV and solar water heater manufacturing plants. Some examples of systems are shown below:

Figure 1 – 2kW PV array as part of a Hybrid PV/Diesel System at a resort.

Figure 2 – Evacuated Tube Solar Water Heating Systems

Benefits to Funding Groups

The benefits to groups which provide support are:

  • Cuba is in some aspects a model of sustainable development for other developing countries due to its high education levels, health system and housing support for its people, and now its adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and a distributed grid. Australia could learn from these measures and use this information to both transform its own unsustainable development pattern and assist developing countries likewise.
  • Cuba’s ability and experience in preparing for and responding to extreme climatic events such as cyclones is well organized and very effective for a poor country. Their distributed electricity system has greater resilience now. We can learn from this. Our electricity system by comparison is very vulnerable, with a high dependence on large centralized plant and a long distance, above ground, transmission system. Nowhere is this clearer now than in Queensland where recent floods and category 5 cyclones have threatened this system, causing restricted access to coal supply to power stations and failure of major transmission lines.
  • Cuba’s energy education programs are progressive and far sighted. Our environmental educators and government sponsored community educators can learn from Cuba’s experience in environmental education and social change.
  • Cuba presents an opportunity for Australian professionals to exchange knowledge and skills across a range of areas, including RE and EE technologies, environmental education and social change.
  • Cuba and Australia have much to share through any industry exchange forum. Cuba has adopted renewable energy for both stand-alone and grid-connected applications. It has undertaken a massive energy efficiency campaign, changing to compact fluorescent lamps and energy efficient appliances virtually overnight. There are lessons to be learnt from this.


This tour is being sponsored and supported by the following groups to date:

  • Australian Green Development Forum
  • MECU
  • Latronics
  • Townsville City Council
  • Australian Solar Energy Society (AuSES)
  • Alternative Technology Association (ATA)

Sponsorship packages are available. Contact:

About the author of this promo and tour instigator: Trevor Berrill

Sustainable Energy Systems Consultant & Educator

Contact –
Ph 61 7 3207 5077 or 0400 177 283

Trevor Berrill is an award winning, private consultant and educator in sustainable energy (SE). He has worked in both renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE) for over 30 years, including system design and installation, research and development, technical training, public education and policy. He was past Queensland branch president of the Australian Solar Energy Society and a founding member of the Alternative Technology Association and Wind Energy Association in Queensland. His consultancy clients in recent years include Armacell Australia, Ergon Energy, Queensland Government – EPA, Catholic Church and Clean Energy Council.

Trevor is trained in mechanical engineering and energy auditing at QUT and has a Masters of Environmental Education degree from Griffith University. He lives in a fully solar powered, energy and water efficient home in Wellington Point, Queensland.

Trevor Berrill


ACF (1996). Habitat Australia, Volume 24, No. 3 June 1996 pp 28-31: Revolutionary Food

Arrastia-Avila, M. A., Lopez-Aldama, D. & Guevara-Stone, L. (2009?). The Energy Revolution of Cuba: A Transition towards a New Energy Paradigm. Experiences on Educating the Consumers. Conference paper presented to WEEC2011.

2 thoughts on “Cuba’s Energy Revolution – what can we learn?

  1. Given that the ALP government has lost its way on climate change (and many other policies) it is now clear that socialist and working class organisation has deserted Labor in government. This is reason the ALP electoral support has shrunk to 26% (shown in the polls).

    Clearly a bad defeat awaits the ALP federal government at the next election.

    This equates to a failure of the whole parliament to address the important issue of climate change. Conservatives in the parliament on both sides have declared their intention to do little if anything on climate change.

    So what will the Left do in response? Will socialist groups combine with unions (working class) and do something based on our own actions, our own resolve and not based on it being done for us by government? Given the failure of the parliament, we can no longer rely upon government to take action on these important issues.

    Have socialists in Australia developed sufficient insight and organisation to achieve this? Have the unions?

    Economic crisis has made the future tenuous, will organisation result or will we sink deeper into the mire?

    The future is a interesting place.

    Ian Curr
    July 2011

  2. YouTube of interview with Mario Alberto Arrista Avila on the Paradigm Shift says:


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