What’s New in Renewable Energy?
By Jim Ryan
Since Laura Chinchilla assumed the presidency, she and Teófilo de la Torre, the Minister of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET), have breathed fresh life into policies that support renewable energy generation. While plans include large projects like multi-million dollar wind farms and geothermal plants, their most progressive efforts are focused on small-scale projects like residential solar or wind generation.
PROBLEM: Clean power generation has always been too expensive for individual consumers, even affluent ones.
SOLUTION: All import duties and taxes on clean generation equipment (including the sacrosanct 13% sales tax) have been exonerated. When consumers invest in solar panels today, they essentially lock in their price of electricity for the life of the equipment – typically the next 35 or 40 years.
PROBLEM: Concerns over ever-rising electricity prices and recurrent power outages are reinforced by volatile world oil prices, rapidly increasing domestic demand for electricity, and repeated delays in completing new power plants. Upward spiraling electricity prices have also been in part due to expensive oil used to fuel rented equipment required to ‘fill the generation gap.’
SOLUTION: The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) is about to complete what will be the largest power plant in the country, the 200 MW Garabito Plant near Puntarenas, which – yes – burns oil! While it helps solve the country’s generation shortage, it exacerbates pollution and raises security and price concerns. Fortunately, proposed legislation would provide all consumers the right to generate power in their homes and businesses for the first time, while still benefiting from connection to the public electricity grid. A new pilot program for net-metering, currently allows ICE-supplied consumers to import and export power to and from ICE (like a virtual battery for the consumer to store their excess energy until it is needed).
PROBLEM: At a time when the rest of the world is trying to break its oil addiction, Costa Rica’s consumption of oil to generate electricity increased 49% just last year. Meanwhile hefty taxes on newer, fuel-efficient cars increase demand for older, inefficient models.
SOLUTION: MINAET and ICE are championing efforts to increase geothermal, wind, and other clean energy sources. Efforts are also underway to remove taxes on electric vehicles, which would make cars like the new Mitsubishi iMiEV, a zero-emissions vehicle with its debut release scheduled in Costa Rica, available to more consumers.
With all these solutions at hand, there has never been a better time to fly a carbon neutral airline, or to install solar or wind generation at your home – and soon, to drive a zero-emissions car. This is the future!
Jim Ryan is the president of Liberia based ASI Power & Telemetry, which specializes in sustainable energy. He has worked with electrical markets in the USA, Central America and Europe. For more info visit www.ASIPower.com