Latin America Green News: the quest for clean energy in Chile, sustainable tourism in Costa Rica and clean cars in Mexico

Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America. 

October 15 – 19, 2012


The Senate’s Mining and Energy Commission vowed to continue pushing for proposed “20/20 bill,” which would require 20 percent of Chile’s energy to come from non-conventional renewable energy by 2020, despite the president’s recent abrupt withdrawal of support for the initiative. The bill passed in the Senate earlier in 2012 with broad support but has remained in stuck in the Chamber of Deputies ever since. “We don’t share the government’s pessimism about this issue, we think it is possible to reach that percentage without making special allowance…” stated Senator Carlos Cantero. (Pulso 10/15/2012)

A new study shows that Chile’s northern electricity grid, the Great Northern Interconnected System, or the SING, could today handle just 750 MW of additional renewable energy projects –450 MW of solar and 300 MW of wind power—even though there are more than 7,000 MW of renewables projects in the pipeline.  Daniel Salazar, Executive Director of the SING dispatch center, which conducted the study, said that the total capacity of the proposed renewable projects is 7,218 MW (1,617 MW of wind, 5,551 MW of solar and 50 MW of geothermal), which “surpasses the requirements of this decade.” He added that it would be illogical to pursue such aggressive numbers given the current limitations of the system. (Diario Financiero 10/18/2012)

The Committee of Ministers, the highest administrative authority in Chile to rule on controversial decisions in the environmental review process, announced that it will make its decision about appeals to HidroAysén’s approval at the end of the year. Headed by the Minister of Environment, the Committee will decide on an appeal filed by HidroAysén against several conditions of the approval, and on 34 appeals filed by civil society regarding issues that were not addressed during the environmental approval process for HidroAysén’s five proposed dams. (La Tercera 10/14/2012)

The clear skies and dry air of Chile’s northern Atacama Desert made San Jose del Atacama the ideal location for the first ever international light pollution conference, called Noche Zero. Experts from around the world gathered for three days to discuss problems associated with light pollution –ranging from hormone disruption in humans to impacts on sea turtles—and potential solutions. The event culminated in the signing of the “Atacama Manifesto” which outlines programs for studying artificial lighting based on the event’s discussions. (Santiago Times 10/18/2012)

Costa Rica

A new study conducted on behalf of Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment, concludes that if a proposed international airport is constructed in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone it should be part of a comprehensive regional planning process.  The airport is proposed near a major wetland area and the Osa Peninsula and critics fear it could open the region to unsustainable tourism development, impacting fragile natural areas. The study found that analysis of the airport, local tourism trends and regional development is currently dispersed between various entities. In addition to this lack of coordination, key information about the risks and opportunities related to the project is missing. While many local people feel the airport would strengthen the local economy, this may not necessarily be the case. A massive increase of tourism in the region could change the existing model of small, low-impact businesses without necessarily translating into greater benefits for local communities. (El País 10/18)

A proposal to build a 250-slip marina in Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce has divided the inhabitants of the town of Puerto Jimenez.  While some people feel the project would bring needed jobs, others warn about the environmental risks that could arise. In 2008 a legal appeal temporarily halted the project, but the appeal has now been rejected.  The court must now decide if it will require the developer to submit further studies about the marina’s impact on marine mammals in the gulf.  (La Nación 10/19/2012)

As part of the country’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality, the Costa Rican government plans to offer tax incentives that would allow taxi and bus drivers to switch to cleaner vehicles.  The government is also in discussions with manufacturers of hybrid vehicles in an attempt to lower the cost of importing these vehicles into Cost Rica. The government is also looking at emission reduction from fuels and the agricultural sector. (La Nación 10/18/2012)


Researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur (UABCS) have proposed a model for analyzing the sustainability of tourism activities in small coastal communities , using Cabo Pulmo as a case study. The model can be used in small fishing communities around the country to analyze the socioeconomic and environmental impact   of tourism development. The researchers used methodologies of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the World Tourism Organization of Tourism, and the Association of Caribbean States to develop 42 sustainability indicators. (Peninsular Digital, 10/18/2012)

The director of Mexico’s Energy Efficiency Trust (FIDE), Juan Manuel Carreras López, is working to strengthen programs that help energy consumers transition toward renewable energy use. FIDE already helps finance up to 100% of photovoltaic systems for some customers. In addition, the National Association for Solar Energy (ANES) will be initiating a training program for the installation and maintenance of facilities utilizing solar thermal and PV energy.  Meanwhile the creation of three new research centers should help drive solar, geothermal and wind energy. To help support renewable energy in Mexico,  the National Foreign Trade Bank and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) signed a loan agreement for $100 million in October. (El Universal, 10/18/2012).

Eduardo Solis, President of the Mexican Association for the Automotive Industry (AMIA) called on President Calderón’s government to enter into talks with industry about a proposed new policy on fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions. Solis noted that the industry supports a policy based on the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard in place in the United States. In contrast the policy proposed in Mexico, Norm 163, is more stringent and lacks an incentive mechanism. According to Solis, rather than promoting the purchase of new more efficient vehicles, it would promote the importation of old cars from the United States that emit eight times more CO2. While all auto manufacturers are working on electric and hybrid cars. In Mexico they will continue to focus on making more efficient internal combustion engines since there is a greater market for these than for hybrids or electrics. (La Prensa, 10/17/2012; El Universal, 10/15/2012).

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