Canada’s hydropower industry has plans to invest up to $70 billion on hydro-electric projects across the country in the next 10 to 15 years, increasing its hydro-electric resources – to a truly staggering 88,500 MW.
Most of the additional projects are in provinces with abundant precipitation that is likely to increase in a warming future, making them ideal for hydropower. Hydro-electric power is much cleaner in cold climates than in warm ones, because methane emissions that are caused by rotting vegetation are lower in colder climates. Quebec is building another 4,570 MW, British Columbia: 3,341 MW, Labrador: 3,074 MW and Manitoba: 2,380 MW.
World’s Largest Hydropower Project Will Produce One-Third Of Africa’s Electricity, But Who Will Get It?
At double the size of China’s Three Gorges Dam, the 40 GW Grand Inga hydropower project, to be built on the Congo River under an agreement between the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa, will be the world’s largest by a wide margin. It will increase Africa’s electricity generating capacity by one-third.
But as IPS News reports, as is unfortunately typical with many big-push style projects in the developing world, the local people will likely get little of the electricity produced by the Grand Inga.
Instead, the power transmission lines are expected to go towards mining and industrial facilities, towards the big cities in South Africa and Egypt, as well as possibly being exported to Europe.
The researchers are trying hard to find new renewable sources of energy everyday and finally they have come up with a new renewable source of energy. After solar, wind, and water power the newest form of producing energy is the electricity collected from the air coulds.
Termed as hygroelectricity it came up at the national meeting of the Amercian Chemical Society of findings by scientist Fernando Galembeck and colleagues at the University of Campinas (Brazil). Galembeck challenged the old theory of water vapor in the air being electrically neutral. Through a series of experiments he proved that Silica and aluminum phosphate that are commonly found in air in a very humid atmosphere it appears that the water vapor can hold an electrical charge and pass it to the particles. This invention came like a revolution and now the scientists are striving hard to make this hygroelectricity a reality with which the whole world can benefit.
From Vincent Callebaut Architects, this impressive project is meant to navigate through the rivers in Europe in order to clean water and make it drinkable. Its name comes from “Physalia physalis”, meaning “water bubble”. It is a project whose idea came from a major global issue which is the fact that one billion people nowadays don’t have access to drinking water. The giant bubble will actually be a floating garden, completely independent in terms of energy. It is said that the prototype will even make more energy than that consumed. Solar cells and a double pneumatic membrane will form the roof of the construction and similar technologies will be used in order to reach its energy goal. Inside there will be four amazing gardens called “Water”, “Earth”, “Fire” and “Air”. The giant Eco gadget, once built, will be present on the waters of Seine, Thames, Volga, Danube, Escaut. We do not know when this incredible looking structure will be let lose, however we are looking forward to it.
A nanoengineered graphene coating could make it possible to generate hydroelectric power without disrupting river ecosystems. Humans have been harvesting the power of moving water for centuries, from waterwheel’s to hydroelectric dams. The only problem with most of these technologies is that they disrupt the natural path and speed of the water, creating conflict with the wildlife that lives in and around it.
Hydroelectric power has long been left out of renewable energy counts, on the assumption that it creates some greenhouse gas emissions as vegetation caught in damned rivers rots. But that may be about to change, with the results of new research just published by Dr. Jonathan Cole in Nature Geoscience finding that hydroelectric power reservoirs are responsible for only about a sixth of the carbon dioxide and methane previously attributed to them.
An international team of scientists has amassed the largest data set to date on greenhouse gas emissions from hydroelectric reservoirs. The new analysis of 85 globally-distributed hydroelectric reservoirs revealed that these systems emit only 48 million metric tons of carbon annually, much lower than the earlier estimates of 321 million metric tons.
German energy company RWE said it signed a 15-year deal with the country’s national railway company for renewable energy from hydroelectric power. RWE and railroad company Deutsche Bahn signed a 15-year supply contract for electricity from hydropower.
RWE said it supplies the railroad company with around 900 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year. That’s enough to meet the energy demands of around 250,000 German households every year.
Hydroelectricity is the most widely used form of renewable energy, supplying around 20 percent of the world’s electricity in 2006, which accounted for about 88 percent of electricity from renewable sources. Now researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new method to harvest energy from flowing water using a nanoengineered graphene coating. The new technology only produces small amounts of electricity so isn’t aimed at large scale electricity production, but rather at self-powered microsensors to be used in oil exploration.
by Bridgette Meinhold,
Your typical hydroelectric plant isn’t going to win many architecture awards – industrial or efficiency awards, yes, but not architecture. Nevertheless the Iller Hydroelectric Plant in Kempten, Germany designed by Becker Architekten took home three architecture awards in the last year. Organic in form, the concrete power station is more sculptural than industrial, making a far greater visual impact than some boring old plant. Plus, the project also included the construction of a pedestrian and bike bridge across the Iller River. Who says power plants can’t be a thing of beauty?
The new Iller River hydroelectric station replaces a 50 year old station, and transforms the riverscape into one that is less pragmatic and more artistic. Becker Architekten, who were chosen by the city for their innovative take on industrial architecture, decided to highlight the power plant through its form. The smooth flow of the 150 meter long plant to funnel water into the turbines shows its river-like nature. Modern and organic at the same time, the plant stands apart from the scene, but it also flows naturally into the space like a large boulder the river must flow around.
Completed in November 2010, the plant supplies enough power for 4,000 households and 14 gWh of electricity annually. The exterior of the plant is smooth white concrete like a giant pebble, while the interior is cavernous and formed with rough wooden boards to build the forms. Inside the turbine hall, it is all business with industrial finishes and the highest sound proofing standards. As a final touch to the power station and river, Becker Architekten integrated a steel pedestrian and bicycle bridge into the project. So far the plant has won the German Architecture Prize 2011 Concrete, the pbb German commercial award 2010 and was a finalist for the 2010 Liechtenstein International Award for Sustainable Building in the Alps.
Each year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) develops an outlook for the international energy markets, including electricity. The International Energy Outlook 2010 (IEO2101), which was released last summer, projects markets through 2035. As part of its assessment of these markets, EIA analyzes policies and incentives intended to support generation sources, including hydropower. Here’s a look at the potential future of hydro generation worldwide and how current policies can affect utilization of this valuable resource.
IEO2010 predicts that world net electricity generation will increase by an average of 2.3% per year from 2007 to 2035 (see Figure 1). By comparison, net electricity generation grew 1.9% per year from 1990 to 2007.
In general, projected generation growth in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, with well-established electricity markets and mature consumption patterns, is slower than in non-OECD countries, where significant demand is unmet (see Figure 2). Electrification of off-grid areas plays a strong role in projected growth trends. In fact, the International Energy Agency estimates that 22% of the world’s population did not have access to electricity in 2008.1
Non-OECD nations consumed 46% of the world’s total electricity supply in 2007. In 2035, non-OECD nations will account for 61% of world electricity use. Net electricity generation in non-OECD countries will increase by an average of 4.1% from 2007 to 2035, compared with only 1.1% per year among OECD nations.
The projection for total electricity generation in 2030 is 0.3% lower than it was in the 2009 outlook, largely because the impact of the recession was more severe than previously anticipated. Compared with IEO2009, the generation mix in 2030 in IEO2010 also changes. For example, liquids-fired generation is 11% lower than in IEO2009, natural gas and coal-fired generation are about 5% higher, nuclear generation is 9% higher, and renewable generation is 10% higher.
Renewable energy is the fastest-growing source of electricity in the IEO2010 reference case. Total generation from renewable resources will increase by 3% annually, and the renewable share of world electricity generation will grow from 18% in 2007 to 23% in 2035. Hydroelectricity leads the field. Of the 4.5 million GWh of new renewables added over the projection period, 2.4 million GWh are attributed to hydroelectric power.
Aside from hydro, most renewable technologies will not be able to compete economically with fossil fuels during the projection period, according to the report. Government policies or incentives often provide the primary economic motivation for construction of renewable facilities.
Changes in the mix of renewable fuels used differ between the OECD and non-OECD regions. In OECD nations, most economically exploitable hydro resources have been captured; with the exceptions of Canada and Turkey, there are few large hydro projects planned. Most renewable growth in OECD countries comes from non-hydro sources. Many OECD countries, particularly those in Europe, have government policies — including feed-in tariffs (FIT), tax incentives, and market share quotas — that encourage the construction of renewable facilities. A FIT requires utilities to purchase renewable electricity at a price higher than wholesale. This allows the renewable generator to achieve a positive return on investment despite the higher costs associated with these resources.
In non-OECD countries, hydropower is expected to be the predominant source of renewable electricity growth. Strong growth in hydro generation is expected in China, India, Brazil, and many nations in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Vietnam.
North America accounts for the largest regional share of world electricity generation, with 27% in 2007. That share will decline as non-OECD nations experience fast-paced growth in demand. In 2035, North America will account for only 19% of the world’s net electric generation.
The USA is the largest consumer of electricity in North America. Generation will increase at an average annual rate of 0.8% from 2007 to 2035. Canada also has a mature electricity market, and its generation will increase by 1.2% per year over the same period. Mexico’s electricity generation will grow faster — averaging 3.2% per year through 2035 — reflecting the greater potential for expansion of the electric power infrastructure.
Generation from renewable sources in the USA will increase in response to requirements in more than half of the 50 states for minimum renewable generation or capacity shares. Renewable generation in the reference case is substantially higher than in recent projections, as the share of generation coming from renewable sources will grow from 8.5% in 2007 to 17% in 2035. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 directed $16.8 billion into energy efficiency and renewable energy and another $4 billion into loan guarantees for renewable energy. Federal subsidies for renewable generation are assumed to expire as enacted.
In Canada, generation from hydroelectricity will increase by 0.9% per year. In Ontario, the government plans to close its four coal-fired plants by December 31, 2014, and replace coal-fired generation with natural gas, nuclear, hydro, and wind. Coal provides about 19% of Ontario’s electric power. With the retirements, Canada’s coal generation declines from about 115 million GWh in 2007 to 97 million GWh in 2035.
The renewable share of Canada’s overall generation will remain roughly constant throughout the projection. Hydropower is expected to remain the primary source of electricity in Canada. In 2007, hydroelectric generation provided 59% of the country’s total generation; it falls to 54% in 2035.
Canada has several facilities planned or under construction. Hydro-Quebec is continuing construction of a 768 MW facility near Eastmain and a 150 MW facility at Sarcelle, both are expected to be fully commissioned by 2012. Others under construction include 1,550 MW Romaine River in Quebec and 200 MW Wuskwatim in Manitoba. Given Canada’s past experience and the commitments for construction, new hydro will add 22,910 MW of capacity in Canada between 2007 and 2035.
Mexico’s electricity generation will increase by an average of 3.2% annually from 2007 to 2035. The government recognizes the need for the country’s electricity infrastructure to keep pace with the anticipated fast-paced growth in demand. In July 2007, the government unveiled its 2007-2012 National Infrastructure Program, which included plans to invest $25.3 billion to improve and expand electricity infrastructure. As part of the program, the government set a goal to increase installed capacity by 8.6 GW from 2006 to 2012. The country is well on its way to meeting this target.
Renewable resources are the second fastest-growing source of generation in the projection, after natural-gas-fired generation. Mexico’s renewable generation will increase by 2.9% per year from 2007 to 2035. The country’s current renewable mix is split largely between hydro (73%) and geothermal (19%).
Two major hydro projects are under way: 750 MW La Yesca, scheduled for completion by 2012, and the planned 900 MW La Parota project, which may not be completed until 2018. In the IEO2010 reference case, hydropower will increase by 2.3% per year and account for more than 60% of Mexico’s total net generation from renewable energy sources in 2035.
Electricity generation in OECD Europe will increase by an average of 1.1% per year in the IEO2010 reference case, from 3.4 million GWh in 2007 to 4.6 million GWh in 2035. Most growth in electricity demand is expected to come from those nations with more robust population growth (including Turkey, Ireland, and Spain) and from the newest OECD members (including the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland).
Renewable energy is OECD Europe’s fastest-growing source of electricity generation, anticipated to grow by 2.6% per year through 2035. However, the increase is almost entirely from non-hydropower sources, encouraged by some of the world’s most favorable renewable energy policies. In 2001, the EU set a binding target to produce 21% of electricity generation from renewable sources by 2010 and reaffirmed the goal of increasing renewable energy use with its December 2008 “climate and energy policy,” which mandates that 20% of total energy production must come from renewables by 2020. About 21% of the EU’s electricity came from renewable sources in 2007.
The IEO2010 reference case does not anticipate that all EU renewable energy targets will be met on time. Nevertheless, current laws are expected to lead to the construction of more renewable capacity than would have occurred in their absence. In addition, some countries provide economic incentives to promote the expansion of renewable electricity. Germany, Spain and Denmark have enacted FITs that last for 20 years after a project’s completion. As long as European governments support such price premiums for renewable electricity, robust growth in renewable generation is likely to continue.
Total electricity generation in OECD Asia will increase by an average of 1% per year, from 1.7 million GWh in 2007 to 2.3 million GWh in 2035. Japan accounts for the largest share of electricity generation in the region today and continues to do so in the mid-term projection, despite having the slowest-growing electricity market in the region and the slowest among all OECD countries, averaging 0.5% a year.
The fuel mix for electricity generation varies widely among the three economies that make up OECD Asia (Japan, South Korea, and Australia/New Zealand). In Japan, natural gas, coal, and nuclear power make up the bulk of the electric power mix. The remaining portion is split between renewables and petroleum-based liquid fuels. Hydropower is projected to supply about 8% of total generation in 2035.
Non-OECD Europe and Eurasia
Total electricity generation in non-OECD Europe and Eurasia will grow at an average rate of 1.6% per year in the IEO2010 reference case, from 1.6 million GWh in 2007 to 2.5 million GWh in 2035. Russia, the largest economy in the region, accounted for about 60% of its total generation in 2007 and is expected to retain about that share throughout the period.
Renewable generation in non-OECD Europe and Eurasia, almost entirely from hydro facilities, will increase by an average of 1.3% per year. This is largely a result of repairs and expansions at existing sites, such as reconstruction of turbines in the 6,400 MW Sayano-Shushenskaya plant, which was damaged in an August 2009 accident. Repairs are expected to be completed no earlier than 2012.
New projects include the 3,000 MW Boguchanskaya station in Russia and the 3,600 MW Rogun Dam in Tajikistan. Construction began on Boguchanskaya in 1980 and on Rogun in 1976, but work ceased when the former Soviet Union experienced economic difficulties in the 1980s. Despite the recent recession, construction continues on Boguchanskaya, which is on track for completion by 2012. In May 2008, Tajikistan’s president announced construction had resumed on Rogun Dam, although it is still uncertain how the project will be financed.
Non-OECD Asia — led by China and India — has the fastest projected regional growth in electric generation worldwide, averaging 4.1% a year from 2007 to 2035. Although the recession will affect the region’s short-term economic growth, in the long term the economies of non-OECD Asia are expected to expand strongly, with corresponding increases in electricity demand. Total electricity generation in non-OECD Asia will rise by 42% from 2007 to 2015, from 4.8 million GWh to 6.8 million GWh. Electricity demand will increase by 56% between 2015 and 2025 and another 40% between 2025 and 2035. In 2035, net generation in non-OECD Asia will total 14.8 million GWh.
Electricity generation from renewable sources will grow at an average annual rate of 5%, increasing the renewable share of the region’s total generation from 15% in 2007 to 20% in 2035. Hydro facilities of all sizes contribute to the projected growth. Several countries have facilities planned or under construction, including Vietnam, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Myanmar. Almost 50 plants, with a combined 3,398 MW of capacity, are under construction in Vietnam’s Son La province, including the 2,400 MW Son La and 520 NW Houi Quang projects, both of which are scheduled for completion before 2015. Malaysia expects to complete its 2,400 MW Bakun Dam by 2011.
Substantial hydro development plans for Pakistan and Myanmar have been discounted in the IEO2010 reference case to reflect the two countries’ historical difficulties in acquiring foreign direct investment for infrastructure projects.
India plans to more than double its installed hydropower capacity by 2030. In its Eleventh and Twelfth Five-Year Plans, which span 2007 through 2017, India’s Central Electricity Authority has identified 40,900 MW of capacity that it intends to build. Although the IEO2010 reference case does not assume that all the planned capacity will be completed, more than one-third of the announced projects are under construction and are expected to be completed by 2020.
India’s federal government is attempting to provide incentives for hydro development. Legislation has been proposed to make private developers eligible over a five-year period for a tariff that would guarantee a fixed return on investment and allow generators to sell up to 40% of their electricity on the spot market. These federal intentions are being supported by state authorities. The government in Himachal Pradesh plans to commercialize a substantial portion of the state’s reported 21,000 MW of hydro potential, adding 5,700 MW of capacity before 2015, which would nearly double the existing capacity. At the end of 2009, 11 projects with a combined installed capacity of 4,400 MW were in development in Himachal Pradesh.
Similar to India, China also has many large hydro projects under construction. The final generator at 18,200 MW Three Gorges Dam went on line in October 2008, and Three Gorges Project Development Corp. plans to increase the project’s capacity to 22,400 MW by 2012. And work continues on 12,600 MW Xiluodu on the Jinsha River, which is scheduled for completion in 2015. China also has the world’s second tallest dam (at nearly 985 feet) under construction, as part of the 3,600 MW Jinping I project on the Yalong River. It is scheduled for completion in 2014 as part of a plan by Ertan Hydropower Development Co. to construct 21 facilities with 34,600 MW of capacity on the Yalong.
The Chinese government has set a 300 GW target for hydro capacity in 2020. The country has sufficient projects under construction or in development to meet the target. China’s aggressive hydro development plan is expected to increase hydroelectric generation by 3.9% per year, almost tripling the country’s total hydro generation by 2035.
Electricity generation in the Middle East will grow by 2.5% per year, from 700,000 GWh in 2007 to 1.3 million GWh in 2035. The region’s young and growing population, along with a strong increase in national income, is expected to result in rapid growth in demand. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) account for two-thirds of the regional demand for electricity, and demand in these countries has increased sharply over the past several years. From 2000 to 2007, Iran’s net generation increased by 7.9% per year, Saudi Arabia’s by 6.1%, and UAE’s by 9.6%.
There is little economic incentive for countries in the Middle East to increase their use of renewable energy sources. The renewable share of the region’s total electricity generation will increase from 3% in 2007 to 5% in 2035 in the reference case. Despite this, there have been some recent developments in the region. Iran, which generated 10% of its electricity from hydro in 2009, is developing 94 new plants.
Demand for electricity in Africa will grow at an average annual rate of 2.6% in the IEO2010 reference case. Fossil-fuel-fired generation supplied 81% of the region’s electricity in 2007, and reliance on fossil fuels is expected to continue through 2035.
Generation from hydropower and other marketed renewable sources is expected to grow slowly. As they have in the past, non-marketed renewables are expected to continue providing energy to Africa’s rural areas; however, it is often difficult for African nations to find funding or international support for larger commercial projects. Plans for several hydro projects in the region have been advanced. Several of the announced projects are expected to be completed by 2035, allowing the region’s consumption of marketed renewable energy to grow by 2.2% per year from 2007 to 2035. For example, Ethiopia finished work on two hydroelectric facilities in 2009 — 300 MW Tekeze and 420 MW Gilgel Gibe II — and 460 MW Tana Beles began operating in 2010.
Central and South America
Electricity generation in Central and South America will increase by 2.1% per year in the IEO2010 reference case, from 1 million GWh in 2007 to 1.8 million GWh in 2035. The recent economic crisis lowered demand for electricity, especially in the industrial sector. In the longer term, however, the region’s electricity markets are expected to return to trend growth as economic difficulties recede.
The fuel mix for electricity generation in Central and South America is dominated by hydro, which accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total net electricity generation in 2007. Of the top seven electricity-generating countries, five — Brazil, Venezuela, Paraguay, Colombia, and Peru — generate more than 65% of their total electricity from hydropower.
In Brazil, the region’s largest economy, hydropower provided almost 85% of electricity generation in 2007 (see Figure 3). In the Brazilian National Energy Plan for 2008-2017, the government set a goal to build 54 GW. However, most of these additions will be non-hydro capacity to diversify the country’s electricity generation fuel mix because of the risk of power shortages during times of drought.
Despite this, Brazil does plan to continue expanding its hydro generation over the projection period, including the construction of two plants on the Rio Madeira in Rondonia — 3,200 MW Santo Antonio and 3,300 MW Jirau. The two plants are scheduled for completion in 2012-2015. In the long term, electricity demand could be met in part by the proposed 11,200 MW Belo Monte project.
A new design for a hydroelectric generator could cheaply light up off-grid areas. The Hydro-Electric Barrel is a spinning water wheel that floats on the water surface and turns in the current. The spinning motion drives permanent magnet generators inside. It could generate enough power to light banks of LEDs and light up bridges, buoys, or even charge mobile devices in off-grid areas and developing countries. And, because it sits on the surface, it doesn’t disrupt the environment as much as other hydro-power technologies.
Aquamarine Power recently announced the first step towards the installation of its second Oyster wave energy generator with the arrival of the ‘Excalibur’ jack-up barge in the Orkney Islands. The operation will see the barge begin to drill piles into the seabed in order to create foundations for the next-generation wave energy device. The new Oyster is the first of ten potential units that are planned for the area, and each Oyster will be capable of producing 300-600 KW of electricity. Once completed, the farm will be able to provide enough energy for 3000 homes.
The Oyster will capture energy from waves and convert it into clean, sustainable electricity – in essence, it is a wave-powered pump that pushes high-pressure water to drive a conventional onshore hydro-electric turbine. The innovative device use an on-shore base that is much easier to maintain than standard offshore wave power designs. The system is also capable of operating at shallow depths, making it more consistent than systems that operate far out at sea.
The Oyster is scheduled to be installed off the Orkney Islands at the end of July, when it is transported from Methil to EMEC by barge. Once the Oyster is on the site, it will be fixed to the seabed around 500 metres from shore. This will be followed by a commissioning process which will see the device connected to an onshore hydro-electric generator via sub-sea pipelines.
Speaking about the project, Martin McAdam, Chief Executive Officer of Aquamarine Power said: “The installation of our second full-scale Oyster will be another major milestone for Aquamarine Power. Our team will be working very hard over the next few months to complete the project for sea trials to begin in the autumn. “We have been made to feel very welcome in Orkney since we installed our first Oyster at Billia Croo in 2009. We have worked with more than 30 local firms and spent directly over £2 million in the local economy since we began working in Orkney.
“We believe wave energy offers a very positive future to Orkney and we look forward to continuing to build on those relationships with our second Oyster project.”
Global power company Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV, Madrid, Spain) on June 18th, 2011 announced with its consortium partners BP Solar and Pacific Hydro that it has won an Australian Government tender to build and operate Australia’s first large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power station.
The 150 megawatt (MW) PV facility will be located in the New South Wales Tablelands near the regional town of Moree and will be known as the Moree Solar Farm.
650,000 PV panels to generate enough electricity to fully power approximately 45,000 homes
The Moree Solar Farm is part of the Federal Government’s Solar Flagships Program which has committed USD 1.5 billion to support the construction and operation of solar power stations around Australia. The project, the first solar large scale power station to be built in Australia, will also be one of the largest solar facilities in the World.
FRV has been awarded the contract against stiff international competition of more than 50 consortiums worldwide. Construction of the plant is due to begin in 2012 with electricity produced to be sold into Australia’s National Electricity Market.
Once completed, the Moree Solar farm will comprise around 650,000 PV panels and generate enough electricity to fully power approximately 45,000 homes (roughly the size of Darwin).
The farm will also deliver significant benefits to the local economy including job creation during the four-year construction phase.
Consortium comprises FRV, BP Solar and Pacific Hydro
FRV CEO Rafael Benjumea said FRV – the consortium’s majority equity stakeholder – is delighted to be a part of this landmark solar project. “The Moree Solar Farm is a very exciting project for FRV and provides a platform for FRV to expand in Australia,” Mr. Benjumea said. “Australia has enormous and largely untapped potential as a major solar power producer so we see our investment in Australia as a long-term commitment.
The Moree Solar Farm will be built, owned and operated by a consortium comprising three partners with complementary skills: FRV, BP Solar and Pacific Hydro.
Latin America — Hydroelectricity projects are set to balloon in Latin America as the region is expect to invest hugely in the technology in coming years, followed by biomass and wind power, according to industry observers.
“We are only using 22% of our hydroenergy potential,” says Eduardo Noboa, renewable energy coordinator at the Latin American energy organization Olade, based in Quito, Ecuador. “This is the region’s main resource for clean energy generation and where most renewable investments will concentrate in the short and medium term to generate hydroelectricity.”
As of 2010, 57% of electricity in Latin America and the Caribbean stems from hydro sources while another 40% comes from thermoelectric power plants using fossil fuels and natural gas. Of the remainder, 2% comes from nuclear stations and 1% from wind, solar and geothermal plants.
According to Noboa, 94% of the region’s electricity potential could stem from hydroenergy while another 6% could come from alternative renewable sources
Of course, new technologies could change future investment trends but as it is now hydroenergy output could rise five times by 2020, Noboa predicts. Bioenergy production could soar 14 times, largely driven by a plethora of planned ethanol projects, while wind power could see capacity rise eight fold. Currently, there are 147,879 MW of installed hydro capacity south of the border. Meanwhile, the region produces 28 m3 (about 7,400 US gallons) of bioethanol and about 5m3 (1320 US gallons) of biodiesel while wind capacity stands 1,000 MW, according to Olade.
Hydroenergy projects have high public acceptance and make use of the region’s large river and waterway resources. Brazil is the powerhouse of hydroelectric generation with 80 GW of installed capacity and is expected to lead the investment frenzy in this conventional renewable resource.
Observers predict Argentina, Mexico and Costa Rica will follow closely behind with several projects on the drawing board. Other countries expected to lift capacity are Uruguay, Colombia and Venezuela which generation matrix is also mainly supported by hydro resources. Mexico generates 80% of its electricity from thermal stations while Argentina and Chile also draw more than half of their power needs from thermal plants. Cuba is mostly a thermal-based energy economy.
Colombia, Argentina Advance in Biofuels
The biofuels race, meanwhile, is mostly making headlines in Colombia and Argentina, which have several large-scale projects up their sleeves. Brazil is the leader with a massive ethanol and flex-fuel car industry but Argentina continues to make gains in efforts to become the region’s biodiesel hub. Government officials recently announced the nation will churn out 3.2 million tonnes of biodiesel and export $2.2bn worth of it this year.
Meanwhile, Colombia is targeting the creation of 1 million jobs as it works to elevate the country’s biodiesel production to 1 million tonnes by 2013. Guatemala is also moving to build its bioenergy industry and is expected to lead the way in Central America.
Mexico has made great strides in wind power but fresh criticism of the government’s “poor compensation rates” are expected to put a lid on new projects in the near to medium term.
Raul Felix, climate change and renewable energy practice coordinator at Baker & McKenzie in Mexico City, expects Chile and Central American to witness strong growth in the technology though other countries, notably Uruguay and Venezuela, are also hoping to develop wind parks in coming years.
Chile certainly has hammered out an eye-catching plan. The country hopes to deploy projects that will install as much as 800 MW of capacity by 2012, led by the 500 MW Ovalle juggernaut slated to come online this year. Overall, South America should see the installation of 1,300 MW of wind capacity this year, according to the Latin American Wind Power Association (LAWEA).
In the next two years, Uruguay, a small nation bordering Argentina’s north, is planning 500 MW worth of projects by 2015 while Venezuela raised headlines recently with a scheme to develop its wind energy resources. A 100-MW project in Paraguana is expected to be powered up in 2011 or early 2012 but Caracas hopes to install at least 1,600 MW of wind capacity by 2015-20.
Geothermal development is forecast to take place in Mexico and Central America though South America also has some interesting potential, according to observers.
Felix says Latin America’s poor interconnection links will present a future challenge to the development of renewable power.
“Our interconnection and transmission capacity is very low compared to North America and Europe so there is much to do in this regard,” he points out.
The region must also improve and expand its regulatory framework to include all renewables. Many countries have drafted a legislative and incentives program to support certain technologies but none have a single, cohesive framework to govern all renewables.
Unsurprisingly, Brazil is also the leader in this regard though Mexico and Chile have also made important advances.