Latin America Green News: Chile's temperatures rise, Costa Rica's whales stay, and Mexico's wind farms grow
Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
January 2-11, 2013
Chile’s Minister of Energy, Jorge Bunster, proposed a new tender system for renewable energy, which would competitively bid out renewable energy contracts to independent generators. This proposal would replace the government’s previous one, called “the 20-20 law,” which would have required that 20 percent of Chile’s electricity supply to come from renewables by 2020. If implemented, the new tendering scheme would mean that traditional large generators would no longer need to meet the current obligation of obtaining between 5 percent and 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources. Instead, specialized renewable energy suppliers would compete to supply this power but without set obligations. (Plataforma Urbana 01/09/13)
Chile’s Committee of Ministers, its highest administrative authority, delayed ruling on the controversial HidroAysén mega-dam project again, this time until March. The Committee must assess the almost two thousand appeals that were filed against the project’s environmental approval, by civil society and by the company itself. Environment Minister Maria Ignacio Benitez says that the committee may need more time to review the appeals, while environmental groups feel the decision is political and not technical. (Radio Universidad de Chile 01/10/2013) The Catholic Church’s Bishop of Aysén, Luis Infanti, delivered letters to the five ministers in the committee, urging them not to rule on the HidroAysén based on purely economic interests, but to also consider social interests. (Cooperativa 01/09/2013)
Chile is warming, claims new evidence from Catholic University’s Institute of Geography. Attempting to quantify the impact of global warming on the country over the past three decades, the research determined that the average minimum and maximum temperatures in Santiago have increased between 0.19°C-0.32°C and 0.07°C-0.15°C per decade, respectively. These figures are in line with climate projections that show Chile’s average temperature increasing between 2°C and 3°C by the end of the century in the worst-case scenario. (La Tercera 01/06/2013)
A study completed by Solarbuzz, a solar energy market research company, has named Chile a regional leader in solar energy, indicating that the country will represent more than half of all photovoltaic energy generated in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2017. Although the country’s total solar capacity is still relatively low—the estimate includes both currently operating facilities as well as proposed projects—there is substantial interest in expanding the role of solar power in energy generation. Upon completion, plans currently being considered would add close to 760 MW to the Chilean grid. (La Tercera 01/07/2013)
The Environment Commission of Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly will consider a proposal to create a new canton (a Costa Rican administrative division) joining Corcovado with Bahía Drake and parts of Sierpe. The idea of a new “ecological” canton was presented by local residents as a popular initiative with the goal of strengthening environmental conservation in the Osa region. (El Financiero 1/7/2013)
A group of about 100 false killer whales are visiting Caño Island, about 20 kilometers off of the coast of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula. Some individuals have stayed in the vicinity up to a month and a half. Generally this species is found in deeper waters far from the coast. Costa Rica’s Osa is an exception, making the region an important site to study the species. (La Nación 1/11/2013)
Scientists announced that they expect fewer gray whales to be born off the Baja California Sur coast this year than normal, due to the lack of food available to the whales in the Arctic. A biologist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Wayne Peryman, says that these whales found less food in the Arctic and that this will affect their reproduction. Around 20,000 gray whales make the 15,000 kilometer trip every year from the Arctic to Mexico’s Baja California Sur to give birth and raise young. (Octavo Día, 1/03/13).
The new Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (Sermanat), Juan José Guerra Abud, stated that Mexico has a responsibility to ensure that all future economic growth is sustainable. “Economic growth has to be sustainable, that is our responsibility, we are not going to permit development to violate environmental laws…” To achieve this Guerra Abud wants to fortify the human capacity of the Federal Attorney of Environmental Protection (Profepa) with staff from Semarnat to allow Profepa to better monitor compliance with environmental laws. He also noted the upcoming release of new policies that will bring emissions in line with levels permissible in the U.S. and prevent the use of cars that do not meet new emission standards. Finally, Guerra Abud will look to achieve the goal of protecting 17 percent of the nation’s surface area and 10 percent of its oceans. (Veracruzanos.info 1/08/13).
The CEO of International Power Expo, Alberto Segura Larios, noted Mexicans’ increasing awareness of renewable energy and sustainability and how that will contribute to Mexico being a large driver of renewable energies this year. The growing awareness has led an increasing number of people to participate in sustainable energy programs. Many Mexican businesses are also finding new technologies and practices that promote intelligent consumerism and environmental protection. (Reve 1/2/13).
The town of Río Negro diverged from the national government of Argentina with its decision to ban all unconventional exploration or extraction of hydrocarbons, including fracking. The Cinco Saltos City Council’s seven members all voted unanimously for the ban, using health and potential negative environmental effects as the main reason for this ban. The town, which has already had its share of contamination with mercury, is most concerned about the water supply safety. Because fracking utilizes so much water in its process, as well as so many chemicals, the town believes that there is no fail-proof way of containing all of the possible contaminates. Cinco Saltos leads the way as the first jurisdiction in Latin America to pass such a ban. (The Independent Argentina 1/10/13).
A new report highlights that Latin America has excellent opportunity for wind power growth. The region’s current and future wind projects could have a total installed capacity of 46 GW by 2025. Brazil will lead have a significant lead in the region, with 31.6 GW of installed capacity by that time. Mexico is likely to have the second highest installed wind capacity in 2025, with 6.6 GW. (Renewable Energy World 01/10/2012)