Latin America Green News: Chile's LNG triples, Costa Rica's birds return, Mexico's oil demand rises
Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
Please note that this will be the last Latin America Green News of 2012, as many of us will be taking time off for the holidays. Felices fiestas, and see you in 2013!
December 9-14, 2012
The Punta Alcalde coal-fired power plant, which was controversially approved by Chile’s highest administrative authority last week after the environmental authorities rejected it, could be the first case to be argued before Chile’s new Environmental Court. Rodrigo Loyola, Mayor of Huasco, the town closest to the proposed Punta Alcalde, is looking into every legal avenue to stop the plant, and believes the new Environmental Court could be the best forum. (Diario Financiero 12/12/2012) Meanwhile, the government has nominated five people – three lawyers, an engineer and a scientist – to serve as the first panel of judges on the Environmental Court. Three-fifths of the Senate must approve the nominees before the Court can begin working. (Nacion 12/13/2012)
The $3.6 billion Maria Elena thermo solar plant entered Chile’s environmental review system last week, and if successful, it would be the largest such plant in the world. Planned for Chile’s northern Second Region, the plant would consist of four units, each with an installed capacity of 100 MW, for a total 400 MW installed capacity. Ibereólica, the company behind the Maria Elena, says construction will take 27 months and so the plant will be operational in July 2016 at the earliest. (Estrategia Online 12/12/2012)
Jean-Michel Cabanes, General Director of the Mejillones liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant announced plans to triple the plant’s capacity to 1,500 MW by 2016. Mejillones was originally built to help supply mining companies with power after Argentina cut off Chile’s natural gas supply. The plant will now enter a second phase of operation in which it will not sell LNG, but rather provide re-gasification services to clients who bring fuel to the plant by boat. (La Segunda 12/10/2012)
The Costa Rican government began offering Costa Rican Compensation Units (UCC) for greenhouse gases under a system that will allow companies to offset their emissions. The Ministry of Environment and Energy is charged with defining an emissions measurement standard similar to what is used in international voluntary carbon markets. To purchase a UCC, a company must first carry out an emissions inventory and work to reduce its emissions. Once it has mitigated possible emissions, the company can offset remaining emissions with a UCC. The UCCs will be linked to forestry, electric efficiency, agricultural and other projects. (El Financiero 12/11/2012)
Bus drivers in Costa Rica’s Chamber of Transport have agreed to start moving toward cleaner vehicles that emit less greenhouse gases. In response to a request of the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAET) and the Public Transport Council, the Chamber of Transport will develop a proposal for cleaning up their sector by switching to 4,000 cleaner buses. Options to consider will be buses fueled by natural gas, hybrids and electric buses. Meanwhile MINAET is negotiating import rates on cleaner buses from Japan, Korea or China. (La Nación 12/13/2012)
Twenty bird species have returned to La Sabana, the metropolitan park in the middle of Costa Rica’s capital San José. The return of these species is the result of an ongoing effort to re-introduce native tree species in the park and replacing the non-native trees currently found in the park. By 2017, the project aims to plant 200 tree species in the park that could attract over 100 bird species. (La Nación 12/10/2012)
In Mexico’s windy Oaxaca region, social entrepreneur Sergio Oceransky wants to launch the country’s first community-based wind farm. By involving the local community in the management and benefits sharing of the project, Oceransky hopes to avoid the conflicts that other wind projects in Oaxaca have faced. The project proposed for Ixtepec requires a 200 million dollar investment and would produce 100 MW. Oceransky has started discussions with the Federal Electricity Commission and the Energy Secretariat to commence a bidding process and secure necessary power purchase agreements that would make the project feasible. (El Financiero)
Civil society groups in Mexico are set to talk with members of the Chamber of Deputies about the budgetary challenges to the General Climate Change Law. In a statement, the groups urge redefining federal spending in 2013 to combat the impacts of climate change. They highlight that budget expenditures are a key central instrument to meet the objectives of the climate change law of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050. (CEMDA Press Release 12/12/2012)
The International Energy Agency forecasts that Mexico could become one of the world’s top ten consumers of oil this year, due to increasing thermoelectric power demand. If so, it would replace Korea in the number ten slot, and join the only other Latin American country, Brazil, on the list, which is headed by the U.S. (Business News Americas, subscriber content, 12/12/2012)