Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 5/1 - 5/6/11


The environmental authority in Chile announced today that the decision on the environmental review of HidroAysén’s mega-dam proposal in Patagonia will take place on Monday, May 9th.  The review process has made headlines all week, with charges of conflicts of interest among the authorities who will vote in the decision, calls for increased transparency among agencies accused of censoring their reviews of HidroAysén, and a new lawsuit brought members of Parliament accusing the environmental authority of illegal procedural irregularities in the project’s nearly three-year review process.   The Minister of Environment stated today that HidroAysén will have to comply with all environmental norms. (Qué Pasa 5/5/2011; Santiago Times 6/5/2011; El Mercurio 5/5/2011; El Divisadero 2/5/2011; El Mercurio 5/6/2011; Diario Financiero 5/6/2011)

On Monday, the authors of the 2009 report titled “Are Dams Necessary in Patagonia?” released an updated version of that study.  Co-author and energy expert Roberto Román stated that under no realistic scenario is HidroAysén necessary to meet Chile’s future energy demand.  ( 5/2/2011; Santiago Times 5/6/2011; CNN Chile 5/5/2011; La Tercera 5/4/2011)

The Chilean Association for Renewable Energies released a new study on Wednesday which showed that renewable energy projects saved $129 million in costs to the main electricity grid in 2010. (El Mostrador 5/4/2011)

President Piñera announced the creation of a new advisory commission on the country’s future electricity development.  The commission will be comprised of 14 energy experts, and is expected to deliver its analysis of the best long-term electricity development options in September.  (Diario Financiero 5/3/2011)

Costa Rica

To meet Costa Rica’s expected demand growth, the country will have to increase installed generation capacity by 80% by 2021. The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) is now carrying out studies to increase the capacity of the five geothermal plants in the Miravalles region of Guanacaste which currently generate about 14% of the energy in Costa Rica.  ICE is also looking at a wind project that would operate as a private concession under a BOT  (Build-Operate-Transfer) contract and a solar project that would be implemented with Japanese support. (El Financiero 5/4/2011)

ICE expects that this year its fuel costs for electricity generation will go down by 30% over 2010.  The reduction will be largely due to the start of operation of the Garabito thermal plant.  Garabito will consume bunker fuel which is cheaper than the diesel utilized by  thermal plants ICE has been renting. Garbito will burn  up to 137 million liters of bunker and emit approximately to 2,728 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.  According to ICE, however, the plant will only operate when no cheaper options such as hydroelectric or geothermal power are available. (La Nación 5/5/2011)


The UNESCO asked the Mexican Government for information about possible damage that the  Cabo Cortés and Cabo Riviera tourism projects could have on the Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park,  declared a World Heritage Site in 2005.  National and international organizations have asked the UNESCO Secretariat to send a commission to Cabo Pulmo to evaluate the potential impact of the projects. The groups acted after Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat (SEMARNAT) refused to review and reject approved permits despite concerns about the potential environmental impacts of these projects. ( 5/5/2011)

Unless action is take to stem the rapid and unorganized growth of  Mexico City, efforts to achieve cleaner air in the city may fail. For this reason a new Program to Improve Air Quality in the Mexico Valley (Proaire) will be launched and run through 2020.  This program will propose actions to improve urban planning in including measures to cut down on travel time.  Another critical issue to address will be the lack of clean vehicle fuels which limits the expansion of more efficient vehicles. (El Universal 5/4/2011)

Note: The linked articles and excerpts in this post are provided for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the Natural Resources Defense Council.