Climate Change Seen From the Perspective of the Costa Rican and Central American Electricity Sector

    Efrain Abarca, President of Comercializadorade EnergíaparaAmérica (CEPAM) says that Climate change, as a global problem, has many fronts…

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    Climate change, as a global problem, has many fronts identified to combat it and the electricity sector in Costa Rica has the great challenge of reversing past decisions through the use of renewable energy.

    Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE)

    By the end of the 90s, the ICE National Dispatch Center was producing and distributing one kilowatt/hour in each of our homes, businesses and industries for the operation of the entire national economy.At that time, several national laws marked the course of the country, namely: laws 7200, 7508 and 7848. We were the only country in the Central American region that had marked a milestone for the future and the effects of climate change.

    Concessions and production licenses were exclusively for renewable energy. While our neighbors granted licenses for production using fossil fuels, the leaders of the sector always had and are clear that this last type of production was exclusively managed by the State as power backup and in the face of a shortage of renewable energy.

    Green energy

    Of course, the percentage of private participation in the country is relatively small but green energy, has perfectly complemented the generation expansion plans that ICE has had in renewable energy issues and is what has made our country a world power in renewable generation.

    I emphasize the laws of the private sector because in other countries what has unbalanced the energy matrix has been the permissiveness that give any company the means to develop plants with fossil fuel sources.

    An America interconnected by high voltage networks

    The Costa Rican electricity sector can feel proud of meeting the demand under standards that fight against climate change. But it turns out that we are not an island, we are a country that not only shares the problem of climate change with the world, but that we are electrically interconnected from Panama to Canada and very soon with South America. We will be an America interconnected by high voltage networks that will allow the exchange of each surplus energy produced by each country.

    Each extra kilowatt/hour in the national electrical system is transferred to our Central American neighbors, obviously paid, which automatically translates into one less kilowatt/hour produced by fossil fuels, which translates into a contribution to the fight for climate change.

    I mention the above because we have so much potential to produce solar and wind energy that we could now be a power exporter of renewable energy, an activity that is blocked by laws that only allow the private sector to produce for national demand as if climate change depended only the type of energy that we Ticos consume. The time has come to open that border and continue to grow as a country and what we like, exporting products that improve the common well-being.

    Electrical integration

    The electrical integration of the region is a unique and global example of how this type of sector should interact in regions where there are more than two countries sharing an electrical border.

    The first thing is that it is an international treaty, which means that at a legal level it is at least on par with a national law, which provides unbeatable legal certainty. A good example of this is when they ask me if the neighbors pay us for the energy that we send them, the answer is that, after the year 2001, this market was implemented, everything is backed by guarantees, everything is centralized in legal and operational matters in regional institutions.

    It is a competitive market that was born to balance energy prices between countries and it has succeeded, so much so that the transmission line that was built for this market is already falling short, it will soon have to be expanded.

    Regional Electricity Market (MER)

    The Regional Electricity Market (MER) is the energy market of Central America, where generators, distributors, transmitters, marketers and large users live together and always seeks to minimize the cost of energy for one or the other, but always with that aim, the that does not look for that, the market expels it. If a generator wants to sell its energy, it has to fight with the traders, because the latter will always try to find a lower price to displace it and this is reflected in the consumer’s rate.The governments of Central America can be proud of having implemented the MER.

    Now, where do we leave climate change in this great regional development?

    When we review the treaty, the protocols, the regulations, the resolutions… we realize that the developed objective of the integration was to lower prices and the undeveloped objective was to encourage renewable energy. There are very lukewarm mentions, that is, we already fell short of the treaty, it must be modified, renewable energy must be included as a priority and incentives to develop it, we must create our renewable energy certificates that reward the producer and support the consumer of that energy, we already did it with the price to the consumer, now we continue our commitment to the environment.

    My two requests:

    To the national authorities:

    Let us allow the development of the private sector for the export of renewable energy and that additionally in the dry season it displaces fossil fuels. With this, we reached 100% annual renewable energy and developed another country brand in renewable energy exports.

    To the regional authorities:

    Do not delay any longer in incentivizing renewable energy under the framework of the treaty. As a region we have been an example of integration of the electricity sector, what follows is to be an example as a region with 100% renewable energy.

    Resonance Costa Rica
    At Resonance, we aspire to live in harmony with the natural world as a reflection of our gratitude for life. Visit and subscribe at Resonance Costa Rica Youtube Channel
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