Success Story - Robert Wright

Robert Wright - New Leaf Power

Providing a fishing community with access to renewable energy

Robert Wright is managing director of New Leaf Power, and one of the 11 winners of the Proof of Concept competition organized by the Caribbean Climate Innovation Center, an infoDev project that supports innovative entrepreneurship in climate technology.

 
Robert’s project New Leaf Power (NLP), a solar lantern charging station at Pedro Banks in Jamaica, would be the island’s first.

Pedro Banks, a 300-strong fishing community at Middle Cay, Jamaica has no running water, in-home electricity, proper garbage disposal, cold storage, public lighting or telecommunications. Robert wanted to create a renewable energy project that would lay the foundation for all of those services to be available over the long term, starting with lighting and cell phone charging. This energy hub can be expanded to provide power in subsequent phases for cold storage, desalinization and waste disposal. Below is an interview between infoDev and Robert, in which he described why he started New Leaf Power, and the ambitions he has for the business’s future.

What were some of the factors that motivated you in this venture?

Jamaica has very high fossil fuel energy costs and we have tremendous sources of untapped and relatively less expensive renewable energy (wind, hydro, solar and geothermal) that can be exploited. I wanted to help preserve our island from environmental degradation and support wealth creation by providing cheaper, cleaner and sustainable source of renewable energy to the people.

How has your life prepared you for this opportunity?

I have a background in investment banking, philanthropy and urban renewal. Other directors have military, engineering and construction-related experience. This mix of background has helped to develop an extensive network of both potential clients and partner prospects.

Which customers will be best served by your concept?

The 300 fisherfolk that live full-time on Middle Cay in the Pedro Banks. This population expands to over 800 during the peak season. Right now we have over 60 clients, mostly commercial. This project will give us more exposure to the SME market and to individual residential customers who happen to be fishermen. It is this individual/retail market that will sustain the growth the renewable energy sector in Jamaica over the long term and we want to develop this ecosystem, starting with the fishing community at Pedro Banks whose energy and lighting needs are most urgent relative to other communities in Jamaica.

What impacts are you counting on for your business?

We want to help make the Caribbean a center of excellence in the renewable energy industry and in so doing significantly reduce the cost of energy in the region and reduce poverty and help create more shared prosperity.

The Pedro Banks Renewable Energy project offers the resident fishing community there access to clean, cheap and sustainable energy for task, security and accent lighting using solar lanterns charged by NLP’s solar photovoltaic array and for charging cell phones or operating small appliances like fans and radios. Our charging station will also be an oasis in the community as it will provide a secure, well shaded and well lit spot for meetings and other community activities such as health fairs and recreational activities like movies.

How will the company make money?  

Participants will have to purchase their solar lanterns and will be charged a monthly charging fee. We also plan to secure sponsorship from one of the main telecommunications companies in Jamaica.

Are there any key alliances that will support the venture?

We anticipate partnerships with the Jamaica Coast Guard, the University of Technology in Jamaica, the Ganzu Institute in China, the World Watch Institute in Washington and several fishing cooperatives in Jamaica whose members frequent the Pedro Banks.

Now that you have your CCIC grant, what’s next?

The recapitalization of the company and the training and recruitment of more staff will be required. Short-term, the goal is to be the most innovative renewable energy company in Jamaica. In the long-term, we plan to be the most innovative such company in CARICOM, starting in the northern Caribbean (Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Cayman Islands).

Inspired by Robert’s story? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter and learn more about infoDev’s Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean


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