Latin America Green News: Chile's inefficient buildings, energy in Costa Rica, green building in Mexico, unauthorized palm plantations in Peruvian Amazon
Posted September 9, 2013
Latin America Green News is a selection of weekly news highlights about environmental and energy issues in Latin America.
September 1-7, 2013
Specialists in the Sustainable Design Group at the Universidad Católica’s Architecture Faculty found the buildings—especially those built recently—are very inefficient in their use of energy. Since buildings use approximately 20-25% of the country’s total energy consumption, the specialists find it worrying that the construction and design of the buildings does not include plans to reduce their energy usage, and cite glass buildings at the new Costanera Center as examples of buildings that have international energy certifications but are in fact very energy inefficient. (El Mercurio 9/6/2013)
The Chilean parliament passed a law to incentivize the development of non-conventional renewable energies (NCREs), setting a target to reach 20% NCREs by 2050. The Minister of Energy, Jorge Bunster, emphasized that the law does not contain subsidies for NCREs; rather, it aims to ensure that they can compete fairly in the energy market. Companies will commit to introducing NCREs incrementally, in annual increases varying from 0.5% to 2%. (Diario Financiero 9/4/2013)
E-CL, one of the main energy generation companies in the north of Chile, submitted its environmental impact documents for a new 300 MW solar plant called “Pampa Camarones.” The $620 million investment would be built in eight six-month phases, and would be located 50 kilometers from Arica. (Diario Financiero 9/6/2013)
The Costa Rican General Comptroller has endorsed financing of the Reventazón Hydropower Project, finally enabling completion of a 305.5 MW hydropower plant on the Reventazón River in the province of Limón. Construction of the plant, under the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), is currently about 60% complete and expected to be in operation by the end of 2016. (La Nación 9/4/2013)
The Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery (RECOPE) will seek out third party opinions from Petrobrás, Pemex, Incae and other regional experts on the feasibility studies carried out on its proposed refinery expansion plan to assess if any of the studies can be salvaged. The expansion plan, a joint venture between RECOPE and China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), was halted earlier this year when the office of the Comptroller found irregularities in the proposal’s feasibility plan. The Comptroller instructed RECOPE that it could not rely on the plan because it was produced by a company affiliated with CNPC. While the third party experts review the plan, RECOPE is developing new terms of reference to contract a new study if necessary. (La Nación 09/06/2013)
In order to reach its goal to increase renewable energy production by 20% by 2024, Mexico will have to invest $2 billion in renewables each year, according to a representative of the Mexican Ministry of Energy. This increase will require a quadrupling of Mexican renewable energy investment by 2024. As over 80% of Mexico’s energy consumption is currently from fossil fuels, analysts are demanding that reform of the Mexican energy sector include major incentives for renewable energy production. (CNN Expansión 9/4/2013)
Mexico Power Group and Mexico Volkswagen have signed a 20-year agreement under which Mexico Volkswagen will purchase 130 MW of renewable energy from the wind park, La Bufa, which is currently in development in Zacatecas, Mexico. The energy will be employed in two of Mexico Volkswagen’s automobile factories, including one that is the largest automobile factory in North America. Utilizing this energy will save the company 3.6 million dollars in electric costs and reduce CO2 emissions by 140 thousand tons annually. (Uniradio Informa 9/4/2013).
The Ministry of Economy has published a new voluntary standard on green building and materials, that will come into effect within the next 60 days. The new green building standard establishes minimum environmental criteria and requirements to ensure occupant welfare, environmental impact mitigation and sustainable use of natural resources. Currently the manufacturing and constructions sectors emit 11.3 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gases, or 56.74 million tons of CO2e. Mexico’s National Development Plan and National Climate Change Strategy recognize that sustainable buildings are a key pillar of urban sustainability. (El Precursor 9/4/2013).
A joint report between USAID and GIZ on the climate change vulnerability of coastal marine systems in the Central American Caribbean suggests that between 60% and 80% of the systems are medium to highly vulnerable. As Caribbean communities heavily depend on the ecosystem services that these systems provide, such as fisheries, tourism, and the mitigation of damage from tropical cyclones, the reports’ results show that special attention must be paid in coming years to the adaptive capacity of these coastal regions. (El Financiero 9/5/2013)
Remote sensing satellite imagery has revealed a 1,000 hectare oil palm plantation “hidden” in the Peruvian Amazon. Located in the Loreto region of northern Peru, the planation was not authorized nor granted a logging concession according to the local Regional Program Director of Forest Management and Wildlife. Officials first learned of the illegal planation through news reports in local media and will now launch an investigation. Palm oil plantations require business plans, environmental impact assessments and soil surveys before they can be authorized to proceed. (Mongabay09/06/2013)
The first lawsuit was filed challenging the constitutionality of oil exploitation in Yasuní Nation Park. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, who recently put an end to the proposed Yausní-ITT initiative to keep oil underground in the Ecuadorian Amazon, is now calling for oil projects to move forward. Indigenous communities and environmentalist have already called for a public consultation on the matter. The new lawsuit argues protection of the Yasuní is guaranteed by the constitution and neither a public consultation nor constitutional reform could permit oil exploitation in the national park. (El País 09/03/2013)