Hydropower, a major energy source for many countries, is not included in the dataset. Although viewed as a renewable source by many, hydropower projects are often associated with negative impacts on people and biodiversity, involving large-scale deforestation and the relocation of communities that conserve forests. In addition, their costs and construction are generally exceeded, and changes in precipitation regimes mean that their long-term reliability as an energy source and their ability to finance as investments are far from assured.
The data, which has been compiled by cross-checking information from state sources, operating companies, industrial corporations and press releases, is intended to serve as a point of reference for those hoping to understand the progress of countries in the world. Latin America in the clean energy transition. Information on locations, funders and energy sources provides a clearer picture of the main drivers behind it.
The transition to renewable energies in Latin America
Our map shows 850 non-hydropower renewable energy plants in 24 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean for which we were able to collect data. For Brazil and Mexico, we have set the minimum installed capacity for inclusion of a project in the dataset at 50 MW, due to the large number of smaller projects. Of our total, solar energy represents 49% while 46% is wind. The rest is geothermal. More than three quarters of the projects are owned by private companies. Chile represents almost a quarter of all projects on our map (24%), followed by Brazil (21%), Mexico (14%) and Argentina (9%).
More than 80% of Chilean power plants are solar. In Uruguay, wind power represents the same share. Argentina has a more homogeneous distribution, with 60% wind and 40% solar. These three countries have seen a strong push for renewables in recent years, including the inauguration of Cauchari, the largest solar power plant in Latin America – for now.
Northeastern Brazil is apparently on the cusp of a solar revolution, with seven projects with an installed capacity of 1 GW or more in the pipeline, including a large cluster in Jazueiro, Bahia, which enjoys ideal climatic conditions, and the largest, the 5,700 MW Aurora Energia plant in Matias Cardoso, Pernambuco. These are also located in the Caatinga biome.
of financing for wind and solar projects in Brazil comes from the private sector
Private capital is also at the forefront of the renewable energy transition in Brazil, funding 154, or 86%, of all projects. Only 8% of funding comes from public companies, whether Brazilian or Chinese. China is the only foreign country to provide public funding to companies investing in solar and wind projects of over 50 MW in Brazil. In the Amazon, Brazil does not have projects of this scale.
Mexico has a large concentration of wind farms in the southern state of Oaxaca and most of the wind farms are located in the Yucatán peninsula in the eastern part of the country. According to World solar atlas. Despite high levels of solar irradiation in states like Sinaloa, there are no solar power plants. There are also no wind projects. In these states, governance is weak and security is a major concern.
The Andean region’s energy transition appears to be progressing more slowly than other Latin American sub-regions. The Peruvian Amazon has only one renewable energy plant; the Atalaya photovoltaic solar power plant, while all the others are located on the southern coast of the country, in the desert that stretches as far as Chile.
Scheduled to be inaugurated in 2023, the 100 MW Laguna Colorada geothermal power plant in Bolivia will be the country’s largest renewable energy project, generating 50% of the country’s non-hydropower renewable energy. All projects – operational or under construction – are in the hands of ENDE, Bolivia’s national electricity company.
Colombia has 38 projects under construction but only one wind power plant currently operational, at the northern tip of the department of La Guajira. Conflicts have already been reported with indigenous communities on wind power development in Colombia, which is set to expand considerably. Across the Venezuelan border, a single factory represents the only operational factory in the country unconventional energy project. The country gets about 70% of its energy from the Guri hydropower plant.
The Galapagos Islands of Ecuador are distinguished by the fact that they derive all of their energy needs from wind and solar energy projects.
Renewable energy targets
He is technically and economically feasible develop renewable energies in Latin America. In a scenario defined by the International Renewable Energy Agency in which the global energy system is Paris Agreement compliant, 93% of the region’s electricity would come from renewables by 2050.
This energy transition would not only clean up the network but also boost the economy. A report last year by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) found that decarbonization will generate a total of 15 million new jobs and 100,000 additional full-time jobs in the renewable electricity sector by 2030, compared to projections based on current trends.
There are many questions to be answered around China’s signal of greater support for renewable energy in developing countries. For example, it is not yet known whether the commitment includes hydropower. For Latin America, this could represent an opportunity to capitalize on the availability of new financing enabling it to achieve its decarbonisation objectives.
Data compiled by Emilio Godoy, Damián Profeta, Jorge Chávez, Sarita Reed and Vinícius Henrique Fontana, with the support of Robert Soutar, Fermín Koop, Alejandra Cuéllar, Jack Lo, Lívia Machado Costa and Flávia Milhorace. Map designed by Julia Janicki.