A startling encounter with a young boy got David Crane, the CEO of NRG Energy, hooked on Haiti.
It was his first night in the Caribbean nation, months after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 Haitians and destroyed 250,000 homes and 30,000 businesses.
As Crane tells the story, he and his daughter, who had traveled to Port au Prince to volunteer with the Clinton Global Initiative, left a cocktail reception to return to their hotel when she said, “Daddy, there’s a body under the car.”
A security guard gently kicked a boy of about 10, who emerged naked from beneath their SUV.
“This kid looked up at me,” Crane remembers. “There was no life in his eyes. No hope. Complete nothingness. I was so shocked. There were any number of things that I could have done for that kid. I just stood there and did nothing, except act like a dumb American.”
Since then, Crane and NRG Energy, its suppliers and its employees have done a great deal. He’s been back to Haiti a half dozen times, often accompanied by his wife and five children. NRG made a $1 million commitment through the Clinton Global Initiative and in partnership with Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) to bring solar power to rural areas of Haiti.
“I didn’t mean to get so emotionally caught up in Haiti, but I did,” he told me, when we spoke by phone the other day.
Now, Crane says, he is hoping that what began as a charitable initiative will demonstrate the power of solar energy to spur economic development in poor countries. It could also help create business opportunities in the Caribbean for NRG. [click to continue...]