NotiEn - A Newsletter on Energy Policy Issues in Latin America
October 27, 2011Vol 3, Issue 1

Brazil Opens First Commercial Solar Power Plant; Indigenous Fight Against Proposed Highway in Bolivia;

Sustainability issues in the Green Economy

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

This issue's articles touch on three important areas that we have tried to cover in NotiEn during the past two years: alternative energy, sustainability, and indigenous land rights.

 

The first article by Ana Cristina Powell examines the nascent solar-power industry in Brazil and how the South American country has yet to meet its vast potential for this type of alternative energy. With the inauguration of the Tauá plant in the northeastern state of Ceará in August 2011, Brazil took a significant step toward adding solar power to its portfolio of energy options. But the plant's output of 1 megawatt is insignificant when compared with the 14,750 MW capacity of the Itaipú hydroelectric plant, which Brazil shares with Paraguay.

 

And, while solar power seems to have gained a foothold in Brazil, countries with a temperate climate and much smaller territory, such as Germany and Spain, produce much more solar energy. Brazil, which has the largest territorial area in the tropics, meaning a huge amount of sun, is simply not taking advantage of its situation.

 

The second article by Adriana Sánchez looks at the concept of a "green economy" promoted by the corporate world and how it clashes with the vision of true sustainability promoted by the development community. The discussion on this issue will have a prominent role in the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, scheduled for June 4-6, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro. The goals of the Rio+20 conference are to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date in implementing the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.

 

At the grassroots level, communities are also making their voices heard in opposition to the construction of a highway through the Bolivian Amazon region. Andrés Gaudín examines the conflict, in which native peoples from the Bolivian Amazonia-the lowlands-are attempting to halt the construction of a highway through the Territorio Indígena and Parque Nacional Isiboro-Sécure (TIPNIS), which is their ancestral homeland. Brazilian interests are supporting this road, which will connect Rondônia, a state in eastern Brazil, with ports on the Pacific Ocean.

 

This conflict includes an interesting dynamic. The protest by the lowlands indigenous has minimal support from the highlands native peoples. They are not in conflict, but they live in geographic areas with very different characteristics and their cultures have developed according to worldviews with few points in common.


Not even the arrival of the first indigenous government, headed by President Evo Morales, has been able to unite the two groups. Now they have distinct attitudes toward their "brother president," who "wants to destroy our way of life," as a flier distributed by marchers in the protest claims.
      

 

Carlos Navarro - Editor      

In This Issue...
A Note From the Editor
Brazil Opens First Commercial Solar Power Plant, but Continues to Underutilize Solar Energy Potential
Green Economy Does not Necessarily Mean Sustainability
Proposed Highway Pits Bolivia's Indigenous Against Each Other and President Evo Morales
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Brazil Opens First Commercial Solar Power Plant, but Continues to Underutilize Solar Energy Potential
By Ana Cristina Powell      

The Tauá solar power plant, the first such facility in Brazil, began operations in August 2011, in the northeastern state of Ceará. The initial capacity of the Tauá facility will be 1 megawatt, obtained from 4,680 photovoltaic (PV) panels covering 12,000 square meters. The PV panels absorb sunlight and transform it into electricity that is fed into the national power grid. That is a modest contribution compared with the 14,750 MW capacity of the binational Itaipú hydroelectric plant alone, but it is the first step by Brazil on a path chosen long ago by other countries.

  

Only a month after opening the Tauá plant, MPX Energia S.A., the company that created it, already had the commitment from General Electric Company, the world's largest maker of electricity, to add another 1 MW of power to the plant, doubling its capacity. "Working with GE, we plan to grow our business at this plant to 50 MW," said Eduardo Kenner, chief executive director of MPX.

 

While the unstoppable growth of solar power seems to have gained a foothold in Brazil, countries with a temperate climate and much smaller territory, such as Germany and Spain, produce much more solar energy. Brazil, which has the largest territorial area in the tropics, meaning a huge amount of sun, is simply not taking advantage of its situation.

 

"The least sunny city in Brazil, Florianópolis, receives 40% more sun than the sunniest place in Germany," said Ricardo Ruther, from the Laboratório de Energia Solar at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina. "If the area of Itaipú Dam was covered by solar panels, it would produce more than double the energy produced by the hydroelectric plant." Read more...

Green Economy Does not Necessarily Mean Sustainability - By Adriana Sánchez     

A number of multinational corporations have adopted the concept of a "green economy," a model that allows the private sector to implement practices that save energy and reduce pollution. These corporations have not hesitated in using the terms "green" or "sustainable" in their mission statements and in marketing products ranging from shampoo to hydroelectric projects. And while there are some good-faith efforts to promote good environmental practices, critics argue that the moves are more cosmetic and that the bottom line remains profit and not sustainability.

 

The corporations are well-aware that demand is increasing for environmentally friendly products and are responding accordingly. This was illustrated in the Image Power Global Green Brands 2010 Survey, which indicated that consumers worldwide intended to purchase more environmental products in the auto, energy, and technology sectors compared with last year.

 

Furthermore, the study found that consumers across the globe have become savvier about how green choices in personal care, food, and household products directly affect them and their families; as a result, they are expanding their green-purchase interest to higher-ticket items, such as cars and technology.

 

The trend is very notable in the US, where profits derived from the sale of green products surpass US$500 billion per year, reports Penn Schoen Berland Associates, a market research firm that studies the green economyRead more...    

 

Proposed Highway Pits Bolivia's Indigenous Against Each Other and President Evo Morales - By Andrés Gaudín    

Native peoples from the Bolivian Amazonia-the lowlands-who do not feel represented by President Evo Morales are staging a prolonged protest against the construction of a highway through a natural park that is also their ancestral habitat. On Aug. 15, they began a more than 600 km march to La Paz, the capital, planning to arrive in the second half of October. They will meet directly with Morales, who is also indigenous and the first head of state to receive an indigenous delegation at the Palacio Quemado, the seat of government.


 Tension has surrounded the march since it began in Trinidad, capital of the northeastern department of Beni. Dialogue between the two sides has been impossible. Eight times Morales' ministers were within reach of achieving a dialogue and eight times they returned empty handed.


On Sept. 24, the marchers briefly detained Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, who is indigenous, as a tactic to get through a police checkpoint. While the verbal war escalated, on Sept. 25, the police violently repressed the marchers in an effort to dissolve the protest. That same day, Morales invited the protesters to come to La Paz, and he announced a plebiscite in which residents of the departments of Beni and Cochabamba would be able to voice their opinions on the road construction
.


The president said that his administration did not order the repression, and he blamed high-ranking police officials who, with the support of the political right and the press, are trying to destabilize and discredit his government. Finally, he apologized to the victims of the police action. In the initial fallout after the police crackdown, three top-level government officials resigned, including Defense Minister Cecilia Chacón and Interior Minister Sacha Llorenti. Morales had to walk back his commitment to carry out the project, his second major rectification since the end of 2010, when he had to reinstate fuel subsidies that he had removed (NotiSur, March 25, 2011). Read more...    

   

LA-ENERGAIA
Energy Policy, Regulation and Dialogue in Latin America

 

NotiEn is an original newsletter with breaking news that analyzes and digests relevant and contemporary information in energy, alternative energy and energy policies in Latin America. A complimentary service provided by the University of New Mexico as part of LA-ENERGAIA Project funded by the US TICFIA Program