Transformation is underway to total energy Independence of Uruguay
The matrix of energy supply for Uruguay has historically been characterized by non-renewable energy through oil and its derivatives but in recent years, an increase in the generation of renewable energy has become increasingly relevant. This comes along with a decade of uninterrupted economic growth, which has increased energy demand, both in the domestic and the productive sector. Energy demand grew at an average annual rate of over 6% from 2004 to 2014, and a projection of the National Energy is estimated at a similar change for the next few years. Transformation is underway to a total energy Independence of Uruguay
The five types of renewable energy are being used: Wind, that by 2016 aims to generate 1,300 megawatts with 5 new wind farms under construction and 15 more underway. Biomass is also encouraged. Today 80% of the country’s rice husk is converted into energy. Solar thermal, small hydro and bio-fuel. The photovoltaic cells are still expensive but they intend to be manufactured in Uruguay as from 2016 on.
Uruguay has a firm state policy in the energy field, agreed with all political parties, to support the transformation of the energy in Uruguay. This has positioned Uruguay as a secure place to invest in renewable energy production.
A series of regulations are being implemented to modify the energy matrix and to promote the efficient use of energy. Some of them include the promotion of renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and the inclusion of solar energy in buildings.
This is part of Uruguay´s strategy to expand the private sector participation in the energy sector and promote competition in the market.
New incentives for renewable energy sector have been duly exploited by local agents and foreign investors increasing their participation in nearly 80% of the projects.
Private Investors´ bets are wind energy, biomass, gas and oil interconnections with Brazil, plus the improvement of logistics and network.
In addition, upon receiving the gas in liquefied form and installing the regasification plant, Uruguay will be energy independent and can supply gas to more than twenty potential buyers.
The plant to be built will have capacity to produce 10 million cubic meters of gas and is estimated to increase to 2 million cubic meters per day which will leave a very good scope for exports to Argentina, especially in the winter period when Buenos Aires has a energy deficit.
Winds of Change
At present, there are over twenty projects in private parks in the authorization process or underway.
More than 500 wind turbines will be distributed throughout the country, but with a major distribution in the south east near the city of Punta del Este, due to the best wind characteristics in that area.
While this activity does not generate much hand labor, except in the construction stage, an important aspect is that no less than 25% of this investment goes to the country, through logistics, transportation, assembly and construction, among other activities.
In some windy summer morning, nearly 100% of what is consumed can be covered by wind. Uruguay would be able to reserve all water from dams and keep all machines (thermal) off.
The manufacturing of wind turbine towers is also giving its first steps. This production system will avoid the complexity and high cost of transportation of the turbines.
Electric Solar Power Plant in Salto
The solar energy project “Jacinta” which is located near the city of Salto, was one of 9 selected joint ventures to produce electric power solar energy. Jacinta was one of the awarded projects. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved a loan of $ 66 million to finance the construction, operation and maintenance of the plant. The complex will have a capacity of 64.8 megawatts. These funds have also helped the private sector in the construction, operation and maintenance of a solar photovoltaic plant and the associated facilities.
Global changes in the use of renewable energy in Uruguay are five times above the average energy investment in all Latin America.
Uruguay will become the first country in the world where 50% percent of global energy used is renewable with focus on industry and transport.
Uruguay is now among the 4 or 5 countries in the world with less greenhouse gas emissions and Uruguay expects to eliminate approximately 18,000 tons of carbon emissions per year.
According to official estimates, from 2015, the cost of electricity generation may be down 30 percent and a savings of $ 100 million per year with the use of the plant in normal times, but the savings could reach $500 million for winter periods of low rainfall and low temperatures when the energy consumption increases dramatically.
The strong transformation of the energy mix will give Uruguay a better sovereignty plus a better quality of life by increasing renewable energy use, lower emissions of greenhouse gas effects and care of the environment in general.
In a time of great global uncertainty, Uruguay is making a reliable and credible bet on renewable energy.
Mary Ann Thompson