RENEWABLES DOMINATE LATIN AMERICAN ENERGY PROGRAMS

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10 december 2016

Latin America is set to become a leader in alternative energy

The Economist, December 10, 2016

"Outside Chile and Colombia, coal deposits are scarce in Latin America. That is one reason why industrialisation came late to the region. In the 21st century, it may turn out to be an advantage in helping Latin America move swiftly to a post-carbon economy."

BESIDE the Pan-American Highway, almost 600km (375 miles) north of Santiago, Chile’s capital, lies El Romero, the largest solar-energy plant in Latin America and among the dozen biggest in the world. Its 775,000 grey solar panels spread out across the undulating plateau of the Atacama desert as if they were sheets of water. Built at a cost of $343m by Acciona Energía, a Spanish company, last month El Romero started to be hooked up to the national grid. By April it should reach full strength, generating 196MW of electricity—enough to power a city of a million people. A third of its output will be bought directly by Google’s Chilean subsidiary, and the rest fed into the grid.

El Romero is evidence of an energy revolution that is spreading across Latin America. The region already leads the world in clean energy. For almost seven months this year, Costa Rica ran purely on renewable power. Uruguay has come close to that, too. In 2014, the latest year for which comparable data exist, Latin America as a whole produced 53% of its electricity from renewable sources, compared with a world average of 22%, according to the International Energy Agency.

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