Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 6/25- 6/29/2012


This week, Chile signed agreements with China and South Korea that will help expand the country’s renewable energy portfolio. On Tuesday it was announced that the Chinese renewable energy company, Sky Solar, state-backed China Development Bank, and Chilean industrial group, Sigdo Koppers, will develop a 300 megawatt, 900 million dollar, solar energy project over the next three years. This will be the largest investment by a Chinese firm in Chile to date. The President also signed a new free trade agreement with South Korean President, Lee Myungbak, that strengthens cooperation in renewable energy development. The countries will collaborate on tidal power research and development along with other green energy technologies (Reuters 6/26/2012, The Santiago Times 6/22/2012).

By an 8-2 vote, the environmental evaluation commission (CEA) in Chile’s northern Atacama region rejected the environmental impact report for the proposed 740 megawatt coal-fired plant, Punta Alcalde. Endesa Chile, the power utility that owns the project, plans to appeal the decision saying that the commission did not consider all the information submitted during the three-year evaluation process (Diario Financiero 6/25/2012).

Chilean power generator, AES Gener, says that the $572 million photovoltaic park, Los Andes, is only the first of several non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) projects planned by the firm according to CEO, Daniel Stadelmann. The environmental evaluation service (SEA) is expected to approve the environmental impact report for Los Andes later this week. The plant will consist of 550,000 solar panels and will be the second largest solar facility in the country. According to Business News Americas’ estimates, solar projects totaling more than 1.5GW in capacity have either been approved or are currently in the environmental licensing process (Business News Americas 6/27/2012).

Costa Rica

The Japanese government donated nine million dollars to Costa Rica to help protect its national parks and help combat forest fires. The money will help improve conditions in many protected areas, increase tourism services by creating information centers and pathways, and create a team to reduce the threat of forest fires. The country holds 4.5 percent of the world’s biodiversity and was visited by 2.19 million tourists last year, which is the most in its history. The donation will help Costa Rica continue its efforts to incorporate tourism into sustainable development (La Informacion 6/25/2012).

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved a new 250 million dollar program to strengthen the development of the national power sector. About $ 98 million will be allocated to co-finance the hydroelectric project, Reventazón (PHR), and help it become operational by 2016. The rest of the resources will be used to strengthen the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity operated by the state-run utility, ICE, and will support renewable energy projects and modernization of plants to improve performance and life expectancy (El Financiero 6/26/2012). ICE already has plans to develop 100 megawatts of wind energy and 40 megawatts from small hydroelectric plants through 2015. Developers will have until July 27 to propose projects of as much as 20 megawatts and the winners will be selected in September (Bloomberg 6/15/2012).

On Wednesday, Costa Rica signed an agreement to begin development of an energy plant that will convert the country’s solid waste normally destined for a landfill into energy. The country currently spends about one percent of its GDP to mobilize, assemble and treat solid waste in landfills and it is estimated that the same percentage is needed annually to address the consequences of climate change. The agreement was signed between the Federation of Metropolitan Municipalities (Femetrom) and the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE).  In the agreement, the municipalities that are part of Femetrom will contribute their waste, while ICE is required to purchase the electricity generated. Private companies are being recruited for the project (El Financiero 6/26/2012).

Faced with the threat of soil erosion and drought, many farmers toiling the slopes of Costa Rica’s Irazú volcano are now improving pastures, using electric fences to control livestock, and practicing “contour” farming to protect valuable soil.  Because the region is exposed to extreme weather conditions such as heavy rainfall, which exacerbates soil erosion, farmers have begun planting crops across slopes, which helps reduce water runoff and therefore protects the topsoil. Raffaele Vignola of Costa Rica’s Climate Change and Watershed Program (CATIE) says that more education is needed to promote soil conservation in other regions (Inside Costa Rica 4/9/2012).


Greenpeace Mexico is demanding a written confirmation of President Calderon’s announcement to cancel the tourist development, Cabo Cortes, due to irreversible environmental impacts. Greenpeace demanded the official document revoking the permit given to Hansa Baja Investments to build the mega complex. Alejandro Olivera, the coordinator of the oceans and coasts program, said that words are not sufficient and that it is necessary to have a document that guarantees President Calderon’s statements regarding the revocation of the permits to ensure that it was not for political purposes (Mi  Zamora 6/27/2012).

Conservationist organizations are discussing the possibility of acquiring the 7,000 acres that were intended for the tourist development, Cabo Cortes, in order to include it as part of the protected marine zone. The land would be operated by the local fishermen and the plan would allow the region to be converted into an area of sustainable use (Once Noticias 6/26/2012). 

The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, shared his reflections on the Rio+20 Earth Summit that took place last week. He said that “Mexico came to Rio +20 to build and share its experience with the purpose of telling the world that a developing country can do much for the environment under a sustainable system without sacrificing economic growth.” He said that while the final text, “The Future We Want,” created a series of positive aspirations, it failed to create goals and indicators to guide work in the coming years. He says that Mexico will continue on its path to protect biodiversity and promote a green economy, and he invites other countries to realize their commitments to sustainability as well (Biosfera 6/22/2012).

The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Wayne, applauded the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for granting Mexico $405,000 to support the country’s goal of integrating renewable energy and reducing power loss.  The grant will help develop an implementation strategy for smart grid technology and renewable energy, which have the potential to reduce energy demand by up to 20 percent and would eliminate the need to operate hundreds of power plants (El Financiero 6/26/2012)

This week’s news was compiled by Emily Jovais.  

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.