Without exception, all the governments in the Central American region are struggling to seek a stable and beneficial energy mix in favour of economic growth, protecting the consumer and avoiding shortages or blackouts. Although it is a complex issue, it is becoming more important every day due to the increasing prices, new generation technologies, global trends for a green energy matrix and long-term solutions.
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But how is the regional energy mix being transformed? Countries have set their sights on clean and renewable energies, but in order to guarantee the system’s stability and reliability, a diversified energy mix is ??important and, for the moment, with the reliability of thermal energy, we can achieve it.
For example, in Panama, during the month of May 2018, when the gas had not yet come into operation, 62.8% of the electric energy produced came from hydroelectric generation, 31.4% from thermal, 2.1% from wind, 1.7% from solar and 2% self-generation and MER (Central America’s regional electricity market) transactions. It is a diversified matrix, but still faces the challenge of finding sufficient and competitive energy resources to support the annual energy demand growth of this Central American country.
With respect to the other fossil fuels and the growing trend of integrating renewable energy sources, in order to meet global demand there has been growing speculation about the future of power generation through coal. It is important to know that in 2011, the proven reserves of coal in the region were 13 800 million t, concentrated mainly (73%) in Colombia and Brazil, making it logistically accessible to supply the energy demand of the South and Central American countries.
Also, thinking about stability and a diversified matrix, is the region prepared for a new phenomenon of El Niño? A report dated 9 July 2018 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicated that the projection for April 2019 shows a 75% probability of the El Niño phenomenon being presented again. Columbia University estimates an 80% chance and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology indicates 70%. Meanwhile, Columbia University indicates that for the months of August, September and October of this year, “the probabilities of the phenomenon of ‘El Niño’ would increase from 54% to 60% and, in January - March 2019, 76%.”
Faced with this reality, there is clearly a need (in several countries of the region) for a greater diversification of the energy matrix, especially to void the eventuality of energy shortages due to climate events as previously mentioned.
Thermal generation in the balanced energy mix gives robustness and guarantees the needed supply for the operation of the electrical systems and the markets’ reliability, especially those based on renewable resources, whose energy production can be affected by climate change or that are inherently unstable, such as wind and solar.
For example, Costa Rica – whose energy mix is based on the generation of renewable energy – has included a percentage of thermal plants that guarantee the energy supply to its customers in the face of a climate event, protecting its stability and energy access to the end user.
Different prospective analyses indicate that the region will face a growing demand for energy, driven by the increasing size of its economies under the impulse of factors such as global markets, industrialisation, population growth and, as a consequence, greater urban centres.
It is important for the security of the system to continue developing a generation mix where thermal energy serves as the system’s backup, providing reliability and support; it is important as well to educate the population so that they can understand energy generation through these resources.
Claudia Cronenbold from the World Energy Council.
This article first appeared in World Coal November/December. To read this and much more, register to receive a copy here.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/special-reports/31122018/part-2-seeking-a-stable-and-beneficial-energy-mix/