Uruguay currently produces 84 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources of energy. Its long-term goal is 100 per cent. The country wants to become one of the world’s leading producers of wind energy and free itself from energy imports once and for all. Regine Reibling reports from Quito.
Uruguay is a trailblazer when it comes to producing clean energy. South America’s second smallest country produced around 84 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources of energy last year. By 2016 at the latest, Uruguay’s left-leaning government wants the country to be a global leader in the production of wind energy.
Goal is attainable
By year’s end, the country will have built around 500 megawatts of wind energy installations, according to the estimates of Ramón Méndez, the national energy director. 2015’s target is 1200 megawatts. The goal of becoming a global leader in renewable energy production sound a bit exaggerated, but it’s actually achievable. Only around 20 per cent of electricity in the European Union is generated from renewable sources of energy, according to the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat. And there are large differences among the countries: While Austria and Sweden produce the most with around 60 per cent, Germany – often seen as a green leader internationally – only reached around 20 per cent.
According to the International Energy Agency, Latin America depends heavily on hydropower, which accounts for around half of its energy mix. A third comes from gas and oil. Uruguay was dependent on foreign oil imports for many years because the country itself doesn’t have any oil or coal reserves.
In 2008, the government – under the now re-elected President Tabaré Vázquez – decided in favour of restructuring its energy programme and has since invested 3 per cent of the country’s GDP into renewable energy. “This boosts our energy sovereignty and guarantees energy supply for the population – something which couldn’t be taken for granted previously,” national energy director Méndez told the Spanish newspaper El País.
100 per cent renewable
By 2015 the country’s aims to produce 90 per cent of its energy from nature, and the government’s long-term goal is 100 per cent. In addition to hydropower, the government relies on biomass and most especially wind energy, which should account for 26 per cent of the country’s energy mix in the end. 2.8 billion dollars is being invested in wind farms alone.
Praise for the energy revolution comes from the World Bank, which just last week approved a 200 million dollar loan to Uruguay to prevent electricity prices from increasingly sharply, as local media report. The chairman of the state-owned energy company has sought to reassure the population that the planned increase in tariffs was still well under the inflation rate.