The next 'revolution' for Nicaragua: energy independence
Oil dependent Nicaragua is battling high energy costs and trying to build a sustainable economy by focusing on wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal.
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Although Nicaragua’s growing energy production has come mostly through the smoking stacks of eight fuel-burning power plants from Venezuela, the renewable revolution has already started.Skip to next paragraph
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Geothermal production has increased and Nicaragua has started experimenting with wind-energy. The privately owned Amayo I and II wind farms are now producing 63 megawatts of power for the country.
By the end of 2012 – what the United Nations is calling the “Year of Sustainable Energy for All” – Nicaragua hopes to reduce its dependency on foreign oil by an additional 10 percent, closing out the year with an energy matrix that is 40 percent renewable based on hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, and biomass sources. The goal is to generate 94 percent of its own electricity from renewable resources by 2016, through the help of a new hydroelectric plant that is expected to generate half of the country’s total energy demand.
If these goals are indeed met, it would mean that in the coming five years, Nicaragua could go from being the most oil-dependent nation in Central America, to the least. And in a window of 10 years, Nicaragua’s energy sector could transform into an international leader in renewable technologies.
Nicaragua’s push for a renewable energy revolution has united the country like few other issues, and has people thinking in terms of long-term national development, perhaps for the first time in the country’s history.
“This is one of the few issues in Nicaragua that has a clear long-term national vision,” Iván Cortes, director of Renewable Resources for the Ministry of Energy and Mines, tells the Monitor. “We have suffered personally the effects of the severe energy crisis, and that’s why the whole population supports renewable energy.”
The Sandinistas’ efforts to switch to renewable energy has also drawn nods of approval from the international community, at a time when many foreign governments are questioning the Ortega administration’s other political choices.
“In keeping with United States international policies and goals, the US government recognizes ambitious efforts in Nicaragua to address climate change by radically shifting its electricity generation from petroleum-based to renewable sources within a short window of time,” says William Cobb, the US embassy’s energy and environment officer.
“I don’t know of any other country in the world that has done this,” Oquist says, referring to Nicaragua’s planned 70 percent reduction in oil dependency in slightly more than seven years. “You must recall that this is taking place in the second-poorest country in Latin America and amid the worst financial, economic, social, and increasingly political crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”
– A version of this story ran on the author's site, nicaraguadispatch.com.