Latin America Climate, Energy and Environment News: 9/12-16/2011


Alliances between electric generators and the agricultural sector are pushing the development of mini hydroelectric plants.  Low construction costs and high capacity factors are seen as two of the benefits of this type of project. According to a 2007 study by the National Irrigation Commission and the National Energy Commission there are 290 potential projects totaling over 860 MW.  Yet others involved in projects place the potential for energy generation from mini hydro as high as 1,600 MW.  (Diario Financiero 9/12/2011)

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Interamerican Development Bank Group (IDB) will invest up to US$ 5 million in the Chilean Renovarum Renewable Energy Fund that seeks to leverage venture capital in low-carbon technologies.  The fund will invest in up to eight small-scale hydro projects totaling 160 MW.  (IDB Press Release 9/6/2011)

The mining company Enor Chile is developing two projects to reduce pollution at its sites by generating energy from waste. The first initiative will use non-toxic waste such as plastic, cork and wood to produce gas and electricity.  The project, which will go online during the second half next year, will reduce 80% of Codelco’s non-toxic waste.  The second initiative which is expected to also be operational in late 2012 will use tailings from the mining process to produce electricity. Enor Chile has also begun to move away from fossil fuel energy toward solar, wind and biomass. (Diario Financiero 9/15/2011)

Costa Rica

Electricity demand growth in Costa Rica slowed during the economic downturn from 2009-2010. As a result, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) has revised its demand growth projections for the next few years from 3.4% down to 2%. This new demand projection decreases some of the urgency around the proposed Electric Contingency Law that would permit increased private generation. The revised forecast also decreases pressure on ICE which has been facing problems with two of its key electric generation projects – the 650 MW Diquís and 305 MW Reventazón dams. (El Financiero 9/12/2011) Both of those dam projects are part of ICE's plan to have a 100% renewable-based grid by 2021.  As part of this energy generation expansion plan ICE recently inaugurated the 134 MW Pirris hydroelectric dam, the third largest in Costa Rica. (El Financiero 9/16/2011)

Residents of Palmar in southern Costa Rica spoke before the National Assembly’s Environment Commission against a proposed international airport in the Osa region.  During the meeting the community representatives voiced concern that the airport would lead to mega projects that could negatively impact the nearby wetland and archeological sites. They also noted that an existing airport in Palmar Sur could be revamped as an alternative to the proposed new airport. (El País 9/10/2011)

A proposed bill seeks to strengthen Costa Rica’s Environmental Administrative Tribunal.  The bill would increase the number of judges and increase salaries to match the level of other tribunals in the system. In addition, the proposed bill also makes the environment tribunal financially independent from the Ministry of Environment and Energy. (El Financiero 9/16/2011)


The Senate urged the Ministry of Public Service to conduct an investigation on the authorizations given by SEMARNAT to the project Cabo Cortes, due to environmental damage that will cause the project from the foreign company Baja Hansa Investments. PAN Senator, Guillermo Suarez Tamborrel is in favor to do the investigation on the Cabo Cortés project because it is very close to a reef that is Cabo Pulmo, "we must preserve it at any cost" he said. (Senado de la Republica de Mexico 09/13/11)

The state governor, Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan, signed as witness the agreement establishing the installation of the first solar power plant in Mexico, Baja Sun Energy, which will be installed in the city of Mexicali, Baja California. The new company will use solar panels to be produced in it for the self-energy to be used in it, which is installed in the park for clean technologies Silicon Border, the capital of Baja California. (Reve 09/14/11)

The plantations of jatropha (Jatropha curcas) in the southeastern state of Chiapas, Yucatan and Veracruz presage a boom like that of soybeans in Argentina and Brazil, with negative impacts on the environment, speculating on the price of land, change of land use, deforestation risk, and expansion of the agricultural frontier. Considered an invasive species, this plant belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae, native to Mexico and Central America and can be found in safe or toxic varieties, grows wild, needs little water and may contribute to the cure of degraded soils. The oil extracted from its seeds is used to elaborate biofuels. (IPS Noticias 09/14/11)

The Environment Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira said that the standard 086, forcing Pemex to have ultra-low sulfur fuel is the most important instrument with which Mexico has to improve air quality in cities. The goal is to clean fuels and combat environmental pollution, which harms the health of the population, the head of the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources explained. But Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) intends to postpone until 2014 its obligation to bring to market ultra-low sulfur fuels (UBA), denounced the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (Cemda). (Semarnat). (Diario Yucatan 09/14/11), ( 09/14/11)

The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, and Achim Steiner, Executive Director for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) signed a cooperation agreement to promote the development of a green economy for Mexico. The signed document aims to provide a framework for cooperation to facilitate Mexico's transition to a green economy and sustainable low carbon development, including support for the creation and operation of the Mexican Center for Sustainable Economy. (SEMARNAT 09/14/11)


Twenty-five percent of energy consumed in Latin America already comes from renewable sources, but this will need to be boosted to 40%  over the next two decades to keep pace with growing demand in the industrial and services sector, according to the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB).  The IDB has launched an energy innovation contest in partnership with Mexico’s Secretary of Energy (SENER), National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT) and the Government of South Korea.  The contest will disburse US$ 2.5 million to finance sustainable energy projects in Latin America. The contest seeks to identify projects that promote renewable energy, improve energy efficiency and increase energy access. (Programa Local de Adaptación al Cambio Climático 9/16/2011)

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.