26 July 2011 – Cuba’s radical shift to a distributed grid system, energy efficiency, renewable energy systems and a shared transport system will be the theme of the key talk at workshops hosted by the Australian Green Development Forum in NSW, Queensland, ACT and Victoria from today until 10 August.

The speaker, leading environmental educator in Cuba Mario Alberto Arrastía Avila, is responsible for the development and delivery of energy education in the country.

His focus is on renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change. He produces a weekly energy and climate change program on national television as well as writing articles on renewable energy for national newspapers.

The AGDF asked him to speak because Cuba is one of the first countries to have experienced a major loss of oil supply.  Almost 70 per cent 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 the transport system.

As well, climate change, in the form of extreme category five cyclones in recent years 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 including the so-called energy evolution.

To support this policy, in 2007, the Central Group of Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency was created, now embracing 15 groups that are working on national strategies to develop renewable energy technologies

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.

Mr Arrastía Avila will discuss paths for urban development which included the importation of one million bikes from China to reduce dependence on oil imports and a program to establish urban gardens.

This development process is more closely identified with ecologically sustainable development than any other nation in the world, he has said.

He will also show evidence of Cuba’s 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 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, ” according to Mr Arrastia Avila.

For the calendar of workshops