Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 7/9- 7/13/2012


Two months after opening a public tender to study nine alternative transmission line pathways in the Aysén region of Patagonia, the government announced this week that it will not proceed with the tender because the proposals submitted did not meet the technical requirements of the study. According to government sources, the Ministry of Energy received bids from the firms Valgesta and Dessau Engineering on the tender, but both proposals failed to properly model and study the potential paths. Other sources linked to the government explained that the need for transmission studies for the area of Patagonia has lost relevance as the “public electric highway” model is gaining momentum (Electricidad 7/12/12, La Tercera).

This week brought positive news for wind and solar development in Chile with the expansion, approval, and planning of three renewable energy projects.  AES Gener received environmental approval for the 250 megawatt solar project, Los Andes with the first 20MW expected online by 2014. The company Alba has filed an EIA with the Chilean government's environmental evaluation service (SEA) to expand the planned San Pedro wind farm on Chiloé Island to increase capacity from 36 megawatts to 216 megawatts. Lastly, Acciona Energía has filed an EIA with SEA for a 25MW photovoltaic plant planned for northern region II (Business News Americas 7/11/2012, Business News Americas 7/12/2012).

Many environmental groups celebrated the passing of a new law, which establishes environmental courts in Chile. Some say that the new institution will weaken the power of the Environmental Superintendent since its rulings and sanctions can now be appealed before the new environmental court. The law was published on June 28 in the Official Journal and the courts will be operational in six months. Thereafter, issues relating to the environment will no longer be the responsibility of the Supreme Court (La Nación 7/12/2012).

Costa Rica

In order to promote small-scale renewable energy and promote energy independence, Costa Rica launched a Net Metering Pilot Program, which allows small-scale renewable energy generators such as roof-top solar panels to connect directly to the grid. Consumers will now be able to receive and send surplus energy back to the grid and meet part or all of their power needs through renewable energy installations. The program will also provide consumers with economic incentives to invest in small-scale renewable generation systems, and the ability to feed power back into the grid will resolve the issue of storing any surplus electricity-one of the major challenges facing small-scale renewable systems (Costa Rica Star 7/11/2012).

Costa Rica’s great green macaw may soon be listed on the Endangered Species List. According to estimates from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there are likely only 1,000 to 3,000 of these birds left in the wild. The hyacinth macaw, the scarlet macaw and the military macaw may also be added to the list since populations have suffered from deforestation and habitat loss (Costa Rica Star 7/8/2012).

According to a bulletin issued by the National Meteorological Institute (IMN), the next three months in Costa Rica will be drier than usual due to El Niño. According to the report, the effects will be felt until March of 2013 and warned that when it does rain, the showers will be short and very intense, which could overwhelm sewers and rivers and cause flooding. The oldest IMN reporting station at the Juan Santamaria Airport in Alajuela recorded that this year was the third driest in the past 31 years. According to IMN director, Juan Carlos Fallas, the decrease in rainfall will have negative effects on agricultural production and may affect the instance of tropical cyclones, storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, which affect the weather in Costa Rica (Costa Rica Star 7/12/2012).

There is new evidence of deforestation in Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano National Park, which is located in a key basin area that provides 70 percent of the water for nearby towns. Park rangers and investigators confirmed they had found evidence of illegal tree removal operations in the park. While Costa Rica has strict environmental laws, the high price of wood makes illegal logging tempting to many. The Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAET) says that the environmental damage is vast and they are currently conducting studies to quantify the damage and measure the impact on the water supply (Inside Costa Rica 7/12/2012).


Enel Green Power has launched the 74MW Bii Nee Stipa II wind farm in Mexico's Tehuantepec Isthmus. The Bii Nee Stipa II plant was developed and built by Gamesa and consists of 37 two megawatt turbines. Gamesa will provide operation and maintenance service for the first two years of operation. Enel will sell 100% of the plant's generation to Mexican national electric company CFE (Business News Americas 7/12/2012).

Mexico's Oaxaca IV wind energy project has requested Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) status with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The recognition of the 102MW Oaxaca IV project as a CDM will help Mexico move closer to emission reduction targets set in the Kyoto Protocol. With its inclusion, Mexico will boast 153 CDMs, second in Latin America only to Brazil (Business News Americas 7/5/2012).

Energy minister Jordy Herrera said during a conference this week that the Mexican energy sector will need US$260 billion to sustain growth over the next ten years. Herrera estimated that power capacity in the country will need to increase 75 to 80 percent to meet demand in the coming 10 years, requiring investment of 1.4 trillion pesos (Business News Americas 7/11/2012).

During the 19th Regular Session of North America’s Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), Mexico, the United States and Canada agreed to strengthen efforts to promote green economies at the local, national, regional and international levels. The three countries will focus on specific initiatives on issues such as electronic waste, short-lived climate change pollutants, and clean energy (SEMARNAT Press Release 7/11/2012).

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.