Latin America Green News: Resurging native forests in Chile, turning waste into energy in Costa Rica, addressing climate change in Mexico

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

February 9-15, 2013


Non-conventional renewable energy projects are aiming to add more than 6,000 MW of installed capacity to the SING, Chile’s northern electricity grid. Among these are 4,384 MW of solar power—primarily photovoltaic, but also solar thermal—which will require an investment of over US$15 million, and 1,732 MW of wind power, which call for an investment of US$3.7 million. (Estrategia 2/15/2013)

With an investment of US$408 million, Chile will have more than 120 MW of installed geothermal capacity by 2016. Two plants are expected to come online in the coming years, including the Cerro Pabellón plant in the Antofagasta Region and the Curacautín plant in the Araucanía Region. The former, owned by Enel Green power, has already received its environmental approval and is expected to begin operations in 2015. Curacautín, which is being developed by Geo Global Energy, is still awaiting its environmental assessment and is expected to come online in 2016. (Estrategia, 2/13/2013)

Recognizing the role that shale gas has played in revolutionizing the global energy map, Colbun, Chile’s second largest electricity generator, is partnering with AES Gener to construct a liquefied natural gas (LNG) regasification terminal. However, the company—which is currently negotiating with LNG suppliers and has several other hydroelectric and coal-powered projects in the works—is aiming to temper expectations about the initiative, claiming that, for a small market such as that of Chile, the outcome of ongoing negotiations remains uncertain. (Diario Financiero 2/11/2013)

Santiago continues to be plagued by water shortages, with more than 4,800 households and 52 businesses experiencing water outages for the third time in three weeks. On Saturday, more than 4 million people and countless businesses were affected by a cut in water service, allegedly caused by increased mountain precipitation that has severely diminished the purity of the Maipo and Mapocho Rivers, the city’s main source of drinking water. (The Santiago Times 2/11/2013)

Lake Cachet 2, which lies on the Colonia glacier in Chile’s Aysén Region, has experienced its thirteenth glacial lake outburst flood—an event in which a glacial dam containing the lake is breached, causing the lake to drain of all of its water in a matter of hours. The flood generated increased flows in the Colonia and Baker Rivers, which registered peak volumes of 3,598 cubic meters per second, more than double the normal flow rate, and flooded parts of Route 7 South. (Que Fácil 2/12/2013)

Chile’s native forests are experiencing a resurgence, claims the country’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF). Data shows that, in 2012, Illegal logging of native forests was the lowest in five years, while native forest land cover has increased by 169,008 hectares over the last 14 years. Citizen complaints have played an important role in increasing the rate of detection of illegal logging activities. This week, for example, CONAF upheld an illegal logging complaint made by a resident of Pucón against a local landowner; the local criminal court is now charged with identifying and prosecuting the responsible parties. (Nacional 2/13/2013; Bio Bio Chile 2/12/2013)

Costa Rica

The University of Costa Rica and the Korean Environment Corporation have signed a memorandum of understanding to help the Metropolitan Federation of the Municipalities of San José Jose convert municipal waste into electricity. Under agreement, the municipalities will deliver their solid waste to a new power generation plant for the next 25 years. The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity—the country’s government-run electricity service provider—will be legally obligated to purchase the electricity generated by the new facility. The initiative aims to promote alternative energy and diminish the size of landfills. (El Financiero 2/15/2013)

The Valle Central wind power project has been officially recognized by the United Nations for its contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a designation that will allow the project to receive income from certified emissions reduction credits. The recognition is part of the UN’s international “Clean Development Mechanism”, a market-based tool that incentivizes the implementation of projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries. (El Financiero 2/15/2013)


Mexico has significant solar thermal power potential, claim researchers form the Renewable Energy Institute at the UNAM. Although the government has attempted to promote solar thermal projects in social housing through the Green Mortgages Program, its use in households is still limited. Financing remains a major barrier as installations require a sizable up-front investment. (Artículo 7 2/11/2013)

Biologists from the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) report the successful reproduction in the wild of the California condor—a vulture that is regarded as the largest land bird in North America and one of the rarest birds in the world. The achievement has particular significance given the fact that all condors currently present in Mexico have been born and bred in captivity and eventually reintroduced into the wild. (El Siglo de Torreón, 2/9/2013)

Juan José Guerra Abud, the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, has announced the creation of a Council on Climate Change, which will be tasked with analyzing and advising on public policies aimed at mitigating the environmental impacts of climate change. Although Mexico is responsible for only 1.3% of global greenhouse gas emission, it remains extremely vulnerable to climate change due to its biodiversity and the presence of multiple distinct climates and geographies. (El Economista 2/12/2013)

For more news on the issues we care about visit our Latin America News archive or read our other International blogs.

This week’s news was compiled by Maria Belenky. 

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