Latin America Green News: Chile leads in solar-thermal, Costa Rica lags on water management, Mexico leads in emissions

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

January 5th-11th, 2014


In a major blow to HidroAysén, media reported this week that Endesa Chile, majority owner of the project, has pulled the controversial hydroelectric proposal from the list of future projects in Latin America that it presented to investors in November 2013. The company said that HidroAysén’s future was too unsure, given the pending decision by the Committee of Ministers on appeals filed against the dams’ permits and the uncertainty surrounding the project’s transmission line. Endesa maintains that HidroAysén is in its long-term project pipeline. Another newspaper reported that Endesa has in the meantime begun work on a “Plan B” project, a 1,600 MW natural gas plant in the Valparaíso region. (Economía y Negocios, 1/7/2014; Pulso, 1/8/2014)

Renewable energy projects will provide in 2014 nearly a quarter of the energy that HidroAysén promised, according to the Chilean Renewable Energy Association (ACERA). This year renewables are expected to supply 4.050 GW/hours, or 22 percent of the hydroelectric proposal’s proposed 18,430 GW/year. In 2013, the 1,100 MW of installed renewable capacity generated 6 percent of the total energy in the main two grids. This year, ACERA expects that 723 MW of renewables projects, mainly wind and solar, will go online. (La Tercera, 1/9/2014)

Chile’s Atacama Desert will be home to the largest solar-thermal plant of its kind. Abengoa SA has won a contract to build a $1 billion, 110 MW project in the country’s northern commune of Maria Elena. Over $500 million in international agency loans and $20 million in state subsidies will be made available to Abengoa for the project. Energy Minister Bunster said the plant, called Cerro Dominador, will “diversify the mix of our electricity generation matrix, give us greater energy independence and reduce emissions.” (Bloomberg News, 1/9/2014)

Costa Rica

President Laura Chinchilla is expected to visit Coco Island in March to mark the installation of a new radar that will help monitor the marine park’s waters and fight drug-trafficking. During the visit the president is also expected to announce new marine protection policies. (La Nación 1/7/2014)

A new study found that Costa Rica’s threatened manatee population has shifted its habitat to areas both north and south of their traditional range in the channels of Tortuguero, Limón. The study was part of a joint initiative by the National Conservation Area System (SINAC), the UN Development Fund, and the Global Environment Facility. (La Nación 1/7/2014)

In the period between 2000 and 2010, Costa Rica saw at least 134 water-related conflicts. Many of the conflicts are due to communities taking action to protect their water resources or gain access to potable water. According to local experts, Costa Rica lacks proper water management and one of the key challenges is updating the water management law which dates from 1942. (La Nación 1/10/2014)


Mexico is in the process of developing ten different renewable energy projects spread across as many states. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is reviewing the Environmental Impact Statements of all of these projects except for two, Vientos del Altiplano in Zacatecas and Parque Pier in Puebla, which were approved in November 2013. The ten projects include three wind parks, four solar plants, two biodiesel plants, and one hydroelectric plant.  (El Economista 1/8/2014)

A recent study published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases forecasts a sharp increase in dengue in Mexico in part due to changes in climate. Higher temperatures and increases in rainfall linked to climate change create perfect conditions for mosquitos to reproduce.  According to the study, by 2080 there may be 7,000 additional cases of dengue reported each year bringing the total number of cases to 70,000 and 189,000 when including unreported cases.  Areas such as Nuevo León and Querétaro, in which dengue is endemic, will experience higher increases of cases whereas areas where dengue is occur as epidemics will fare better. (Sci Dev Net 1/2/2014)

According to the World Bank, Mexico emits the most carbon dioxide in Latin America, releasing 472 million tons annually of the greenhouse gas, the equivalent of 3.8 metric tons per capita. The World Bank attributes these high emissions to inefficient uses of energy in the industry, transportation and energy sectors. The country emits over 100 million tons more than Brazil and twice as much as Argentina, the second and third largest emitters in the region. Mexico’s subsidiaries and tariffs contribute to the inefficiency by lowering costs of fossil fuels and lessening the incentive and priority to move to cleaner methods of energy.  (AM 1/6/2014)


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