In the wake of growing energy consumption and the most urgent need for sustainable energy resources, Latin American governments are beginning to accord high priority to the generation of energy from renewable energy sources (RES). Although some of them, such as solar and geothermal, are not entirely competitive in terms of costs and efficiency, others such as wind power and biomass have seen their installed base grow substantially across the region.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (energy.frost.com), Latin America Renewable Energy Markets, reveals that this market reached around 4.400 MW in installed capacity in 2006, and estimates to achieve 17.300 MW installed capacity by 2013.
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"Renewable energy sources are becoming an increasingly important component of Latin America’s energy matrix, particularly with the growing need for enhanced energy security, rural electrification and energy diversification," notes Frost & Sullivan Energy Program Manager Milena Matone. "Government incentives and programs are evidently the main wind market drivers with Brazils Program for Investments in Alternative Sources of Electric Energy (PROINFA) being a prime example."
Among the various RES, wind power is one of the most promising in Latin America. While Brazil - 240 MW installed capacity- and Mexico - 88 MW installed capacity - are the prominent markets, Cost Rica holds strong growth potential due to high winds in the area. The country generates 75 MW (0.5 percent of its electricity) from wind power sources.
"Likewise, biomass holds considerable promise for power generation as the Latin American region has a wide availability of wood wastes, agricultural, agro-industrial and livestock sub-products" says Jorge De Rosa, Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst. "Isolated communities represent a great opportunity for biomass equipment suppliers since Latin American governments are keen in developing rural electrification programs."
However, the principal constraints to wind power growth in Latin America are its cost and unrewarded environmental benefits: the choice for power sources is usually based in costs factors, without considering environmental externalities. In other words, environmental concerns should be fully taken into account and be reflected in more attractive and competitive prices for renewable energy sources – wind power included.
"Furthermore, RES prices are, in most Latin American countries, not competitive vis-à-vis fossil fuels and traditional energy sources," explains Matone. "Institutional weakness and lack of continuity in energetic policies (except for Brazil) are the other major restraints holding back national as well as overseas investments in renewable energy projects."
In order to overcome these challenges, participants should improve upon product technology and efficiency. Additionally, participants will do well to build strategic alliances and campaign for favorable government incentives and policies.
"Overall, biomass power remains the dominant RES, and the Latin American biomass power installed capacity is expected to grow by 50 to 55 percent in 2007, as governments across the region begin implementing new biomass power projects," notes Milena Matone. "This is expected to burgeon by 80 percent in 2008."
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