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NEWS: Worldwatch and INCAE Host Renewable Energy Working Group in Costa Rica

by Adam Dolezal

Earlier this month, the Worldwatch Institute’s Central America team – based in Washington, DC and Costa Rica – convened a workshop with over 35 renewable energyRenewable energy is power generated from infinite sources, such as wind or solar power. Conventional energy is generated from finite sources, such as natural gas or fossil oil. experts and decision-makers on the campus of theINCAE Business School in Alajuela, Costa Rica. Renewable energy experts from around the region, including experts from El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, were in attendance. The workshop was co-hosted by Alexander Ochs, Worldwatch Director of Climate & Energy, and Ana María Majano, Associate Director of the Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable DevelopmentThe concept of sustainable development was introduced in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and had its roots in the concept of a sustainable society and in the management of renewable resources. Adopted by the WCED in 1987 and by the Rio Conference in 1992 as a process of change in ... (CLACDS). The event consisted of a distinctive round table discussion format that gave participants the opportunity to present, respond and get involved through small break-out groups. Questions were addressed regarding how to replicate renewable energy successes and overcome barriers preventing clean energy expansion in the region. The event took our research and potential for impact to a new level.

Central American governments have been vocal about their support for renewablesRenewable energy is power generated from infinite sources, such as wind or solar power. Conventional energy is generated from finite sources, such as natural gas or fossil oil. by setting ambitious targetsTarget period: For multi-year goals, a period of several consecutive years over which the mitigation goal is to be achieved. The last years of the goal period. Target year: For single-year goals, the year by which the goal is to be met. The last year of the goal period. Target year emissions: ... pertaining to all end user sectors – electricityElectricity generation includes all technologies that turn some form of energy into useful electric energy. Electricity is a form of energy that has magnetic, radiant and chemical effects. Electric current is created by a flow of electrons., heating and coolingair conditioning/cooling is the process of altering the properties of air (primarily temperature and humidity) to more comfortable conditions, typically with the aim of distributing the conditioned air to an occupied space to improve thermal comfort and indoor air quality., and transportation. Such government support for renewables was evidenced by the presentation from the Costa Rican government’ director of energy, Gloria Villa, regarding the legacy of support for renewables by the MINAET. But the effective administration and governance of such policies remains a significant barrier. Jay Gallegos, the general manager of one of the largest windWind occurs due to different temperature levels in the atmosphere (troposphere) which are heated up by the sun. A typical example are the trade winds at the equator where the sun is most powerful. companies in the region, Globeleq Mesoamerica Energy, warned that in bringing a wind project to fruition his company has to budget an additional 10 percent of overall project costsCost: The consumption of resources such as labour time, capital, materials, fuels, etc. as the consequence of an action. In economics, all resources are valued at their opportunity cost, which is the value of the most valuable alternative use of the resources. Costs are defi ned in a variety of ... to handle ‘incidentals’ – that is, unplanned administrative costs and roughly 80,000 additional people hours.

Also discussing and addressing barriers was Jorge Vasquez of the Central American Integration System’s Energy Coordination Unit (USE-SICA), as well as major renewable energy investment funds such as E+Co Capital and Flex Energy Group/Private Financing Advisory Network.

In order to inform our research and the work of other participants, speakers attended to present best practice examples from throughout Central America. Rebeca Ramírez, representing the Energy Secretariat of Panama, spoke to that country’s recent steps in the promotion of wind powerWind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form, such as electricity, using wind turbines. By 2010, a single wind turbine can produce several MW of electric power. through wind-only government-sponsored auctions. If the currently planned Penonome project  being developed by Unión Eolica Panameña  is built on schedule, Panama will have its first wind station, with a capacity of 220 MW, in operation by the end of next year. At any given time with all blades spinning, the wind parkA group of wind turbines interconnected to a common power provider system through a system of transformers, distribution lines, and (usually) one substation. Operation, control, and maintenance functions are often centralized through a network of computerized monitoring systems, supplemented by ... will supply up to 7 percent of the country’s peak electricity demand.

According to Ramírez’s presentation, Panama needs to add 100 MW of new capacity each year to meet growing energy use. Given the right conditions, such demand could be met entirely through wind and other sustainable sources. Contracts are now signed and ground has been broken in the construction of the new wind farmA group of wind turbines interconnected to a common power provider system through a system of transformers, distribution lines, and (usually) one substation. Operation, control, and maintenance functions are often centralized through a network of computerized monitoring systems, supplemented by .... What remains to be accomplished is the successful importation of equipment and the meeting of generation costs in a profitable way. Critics have suggested that auctions which put a cap on the bidding price, such as those which have launched this wind project in Panama, can make it hard for generators to deliver at the agreed upon price – having underbid themselves. But, if the pieces of the puzzle come together, including financing, permitting, and construction, Panama will have implemented the region’s largest wind project in a fraction of the time that other projects have required.

Bringing our workshop out of the domain of policymaking and large power plants, Carolina Hernández of the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) made a presentation in a unique format. She conducted an interview in the center of the round table with Don Carlos, the owner of small dairy cow farm who received support to construct three biogasBiogas is a flammable gas that accrues from the fermentation of biomass in biogas plants. digesters. These digesters produce methaneMethane is one of the six greenhouse gases to be mitigated under the Kyoto Protocol and is the major component of natural gas and associated with all hydrocarbon fuels, animal husbandry and agriculture. Coal-bed methane is the gas found in coal seams. (IPCC) gas and electricity through the decomposition of livestock manureManure are liquid and solid excrements from animals occurring on farms.. Don Carlos burns the gas to heat waterClimate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass ... to produce steam to turn a turbine to generate electricity for use on his farm. While he was admittedly a skeptic at first, his son, who was also at the workshop, claimed responsibility for convincing Don Carlos of the value and feasibility of the project – Don Carlos was the one presenting his success story to the group of renewable energy experts.

With a sense of urgency, all participants were doing their part to increase local energy generation through green technologies as a means to reach sustainable social and environmental outcomes such as: education, health care, the mitigationMitigation refers to actions that reduce our contribution to the causes of climate change. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), through energy efficiency and using alternative forms of transport and energy.(UKCIP) of local pollution climate changeClimate change is a lasting change in weather patterns over long periods of time. It can be a natural phenomena and and has occurred on Earth even before people inhabited it. Quite different is a current situation that is also referred to as climate change, anthropogenic climate change, or ... effects, community participation and empowerment. We have been amazed by the amount of leadership on renewable energy in the region and we are extremely grateful for the high-quality contributions of our workshop participants. Through this consultation, we have identified key areas where reform is needed to further establish Central America as a worldwide renewable energy leader. In the coming months, we will continue to report on our conclusions from the workshops and the Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America.

Please see the project webpage for further workshop information including access to presentations as well as photos from the workshop and video interviews with renewable energy experts in Nicaragua.

We are thankful for the generous support of the Climate Development Knowledge Network and the Energy and Environment Partnership with Central America.

Article originally posted on: Revolt Blog (Worldwatch Institute)

Image credit: Revolt Blog

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