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Denée Reaves’s Blog

Latin America Green News: Turbines start turning at Chile's largest wind farm, Costa Rican refinery interrupted, Mexico begins monitoring air quality, and IDB says LAC has over 22 times more renewable potential than 2050 electricity demand

Denée Reaves

Posted June 21, 2013

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

June 17-21 2013

Chile

A new report from the Inter-American Development Bank cited HidroAysén as an example of a project that generates environmental and social conflicts, and could be avoided by building non-conventional renewable energy projects. The study was released at the Global Green Growth Forum meeting, and detailed the enormous potential of renewable energy resources throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The authors of the study also emphasized that renewables are increasingly cost-competitive with conventional energy plants in the region.  (Diario Financiero 6/20/2013, El Ciudadano 6/19/2013)

The Center for Renewable Energy’s newest report showed that energy generation from renewables grew 21% in May over the previous month, contributing 343.6 GW/h to the two main electric grids, or 6.49% of their total generation for the month. The energy came from biomass, mini-hydro, wind and solar plants. (CER 6/19/2013) Next month’s numbers from CER may get a boost from Enel Green Power’s newly operational Talinay wind farm, the largest one currently operating in Chile, in the northern region of Coquimbo. The farm’s 45 turbines will have a combined installed capacity of 90MW, capable of generating 200 GW/h annually and avoiding 165,000 metric tons of emitted CO2. Enel Green Power also has another 90 MW wind farm called “Valle de los Vientos” under construction in the Atacama Region. (La Tercera 6/20/2013 via FuturoRenovable 6/21/2013)

The scenic city of Pucón has become the first city in Chile to ban plastic bags, following the lead set by San Francisco and some Argentine cities. A study conducted by the city concluded that Pucón’s 21,000 residents and tourists use approximately 11.5 million plastic bags every year, which makes the polyethylene-based bags the main form of waste in local landfills. The city will begin with a six-month awareness campaign to inform people of cloth and biodegradable options, before transitioning out the use of plastic bags. The city expects the whole process to be complete by 2015. (Santiago Times 6/20/2013)

ENAP, the state petroleum agency, said that it would cost $300 million to upgrade their refinery to meet the national diesel standards recently set by the Ministry of Environment, which require diesel fuels for both transportation and non-transportation purposes to reduce their sulfur content from the current 40 parts per million (ppm) to 15 ppm by next year. General Manager of ENAP, Ricardo Cruzat, says that the new standard is too expensive, and points out how other countries at the forefront of cleaning up dirty diesel fuels – the U.S. and Europe – have different standards for transportation and non-transportation diesel fuels. (Pulso 6/21/2013 via Revista Electricidad 6/21/2013)

Costa Rica

The Government Accountability Office has put the brakes on a controversial plan to modernize and expand the country’s oil refinery as part of a joint venture between Recope, Costa Rica’s National Refining Company, and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).  The Accountability office ordered Recope to discard the project’s feasibility study because it overestimates the project’s financial viability, fails to analyze the Costa Rican market, and was carried out by a company linked to CNPC. In response, the Ministry of Energy & Environment has given Recope six months to propose an alternate plan. The proposed updates to the refinery had recently come under close public scrutiny following news about the dismissal of two experts who criticized the plan, including an advisor to the Costa Rican climate negotiators who noted that the refinery plan did not make sense in a country that aimed to achieve carbon neutrality. Meanwhile SETENA, the agency in charge of environmental reviews has received a petition requesting the annulment of the refinery project’s 2012 environmental impact permit.  According to the petition, the permit should have never been granted because scope of the work constitutes an entirely new project, not merely a modernization as stated in the environmental impact assessment.  (El Financiero 6/20/2013; La Nación6/20/2013; El País 6/21/2013)

Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of an appeal filed against the Municipality of Osa because one of the area’s zoning laws allowed concessions to be granted in forests and wetlands which are considered State Natural Heritage sites. The court’s ruling suspends concessions until there is absolute certainty that the concession areas do not include State Natural Heritage sites. (El Financiero 6/14/2013)

In a separate ruling, the Constitutional Court rejected Industrias Infinito’s appeal of the 2011 cancelation of its Crucitas mining concession.  The court’s decision means the company has no further legal recourse in Costa Rica, but it has previously stated it is studying the possibility of pursuing international arbitrage seeking $1.02 million in indemnification. (La Nación 6/20/2013)

Mexico

The Secretary of Energy, Pedro Joaquín Coldwell, made a case at the Global Green Growth Forum that Mexico is a great country for national and foreign companies to invest in for renewable energies because they can provide certainty to investors and have already attracted multinational companies with developing technologies. He also stated that the country is extremely invested in developing all types of renewable energy to prepare for new green economies and to limit the greenhouse gas emissions and its effects. (El Financiero 06/18/2013)

At the 43rd meeting of the National Council of Protected Areas (Conap), the Director of the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, Juan José Guerra Abud, declared the government’s commitment to strengthen, consolidate and regulate the processes of Conap for the protection of natural areas. These changes will be made to help improve the work done by Conap and increase the amount of protected areas in Mexico to meet the commitments made to the United Nations. Guerra Abud emphasizes how important conservation is to preserving the rich nature in Mexico, furthering his point by noting that the Bisosphere reserve El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar are among the competitors to be called World Heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco).  (El Semenario 06/20/2013)

Despite the NOM 156 Federal mandate requiring cities with 500 thousand or more inhabitants or 20,000 tons of emissions annually to establish operations to monitor air quality by June 18th of this year, cities like Tamaulipas, Reynosa, and Tampico will open their air monitoring sites next month. Regardless of the delay, the representative of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) in Tamaulipas makes assurances that all monitoring sites will follow the rules and guidelines outlined in the NOM 156. The goal of this mandate is to reduce the environmental problems caused by increases of population, industrial activity, and car emissions.  (Milenio 06/21/2013)

 

Regional

Latin America and the Caribbean have enough renewable energy resources to meet their electricity needs 22 times over by 2050, according to a new Inter-American Development Bank report released in Bogotá.  Titled “Rethinking our Energy Future,” the report also notes that by exploiting just 1.6% of their renewable energy resources, countries in the region can meet their current electricity demands. IN its new analysis, the IDB emphasizes that renewables are already cost-competitive with conventional energy sources, and that governments need to enact specific policies to level the playing field for renewables to compete with conventional options. (Inter-American Development Bank 6/18/2013)

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

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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